“The Lord’s Prayer” Follow Up July 25, 2017

This Sunday, we learned from the model prayer Jesus left for His followers:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:5-15).


As we studied the passage together, we learned of three fundamental things prayer requires:

  • Sincerity
  • Spiritual Perspective
  • Surrender

Let’s review our first point…

Prayer Requires Sincerity

Notice the invocation (or the address) that Jesus begins His model prayer with in verse 9: “Our Father in heaven.”

Throughout our series here in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, it’s been mentioned that Jesus expounds on kingdom living as we sojourn on this earth. In other words: Because we are citizens of heaven—because we are people who belong to Christ and God’s kingdom through faithwe are therefore to live in a certain way as we wait to enter our heavenly homeland to live with Christ, forever.

Jesus’s teaching here in His Sermon on the Mount has been about living on this earth in light of our future hope, and it’s no different here: For those who belong to Christ, the first Person of the Trinity—God the Father Himself—will be and is already our Father! It’s a kingdom reality we live out, today. Addressing Him as Father, then, alludes to the already present reality of our collective adoption. He’s our Father! It’s telling us that our Father’s kingdom is simultaneously a family; one family; our Father’s family!

Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:5-6 both point to our collective “adoption as sons.” This adoption spoken of by the Apostle Paul would have meant at least a couple of things in the Roman world:

  1. A receiving of an entirely new identity and status, with all the rights and privileges of the new family.
  2. A permanence of new status: Parents could legally disown biological children, but they could never give back an adopted child.

These amazing truths help us understand the magnanimous nature of God and the infinite beauty of the grace we’ve inherited in Christ, for in our new identity as adopted children of God, we have received:

  • All the rights and privileges of Christ.
  • The title of heir of God.
  • The title of coheir with Christ.

Through our adoption, then, we are receiving all of heaven, including God as our Father, and He will never give us back. We are entirely His and He is entirely ours. No wonder Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:5-6 both show us we’re now able to address Him as “Abba! Father!” (Aramaic for “Daddy”). As our Daddy, then, we are reminded of both His nearness to us as His children and also His willingness and eagerness to lend His ear to our praises, confessions, thanksgivings, and supplications, all because there is warmth and intimacy in our new relationship with our Father.

This is what praying in Jesus’s name is all about: Approaching the Father just as Christ—as sons of God who now have free access to Him through Christ.

But notice that He’s also our Father in heaven, again reminding us of our future dwelling place. For the time being, we are merely pilgrims here below, but we look forward to being where our Father is.

So when we pray, we pray as beloved children who can freely and confidently approach our Father in heaven with the sincerity of a true child. What does this look like? Well, to our benefit, Jesus provides some examples for us right here in our text.

In verses 5-8 of our text, the first thing to notice about sincerity is humility.

In verse 5—similar to what we saw last week in regards to our giving to the needy—we’re informed that true children of God (and true citizens of heaven) understand the gracious reward of eternal sonship they’ve received in Christ. As such, their prayers are not motivated by a desire to be seen, heard, and praised by others.

Now, Jesus does mention praying in secret in verse 6, but the emphasis isn’t so much the place of prayer as it is the sincere attitude of the heart. Prayer has always been a pillar of Jewish piety. Public prayer was commonly practiced in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings, as alluded to in Psalm 55:17, Daniel 6:10, and Acts 3:1. So, it’s important to mention: Jesus did not condemn all public prayer. He Himself had a habit of praying publicly, as seen later in Matthew 14 and 15 in His prayerful thanksgiving for food. Therefore, the central concern Jesus raises here is one’s internal motivation.

In Jesus’s famous parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector—seen in Luke 18:9-14—it wasn’t that Christ condemned either the Pharisee nor the tax collector for praying in public, it was that He condemned the Pharisee for his self-exaltation. So again, the emphasis isn’t so much the place of prayer as it is the attitude of the heart, for if one were to pray privately—even behind a closed door—and one were then to advertise the practice in order to receive praise, the purpose of entering a secret place would be defeated.

So approaching God with sincerity means humility—the exaltation of God, not the exaltation of ourselves. And it also means trust-filled conversation.

Notice verses 7 and 8 in our text: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Historically, idol worship has involved either the repeating of the names of false gods or the repetition of the same words over and over without thinking. A clear example of this is found in 1 Kings 18, where Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal. In the narrative, the idolatrous prophets sacrifice a bull and then call on the name of Baal—a false god—from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!”

That’s the kind of mindless, mechanical repetition that Jesus is prohibiting here, not the earnest repetition that might flow from an imploring heart, as seen in Mark 14:39 in Jesus’s own prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, just before His betrayal and arrest. There is even repetition in Jesus’s high priestly prayer for His followers in John 17, where we may observe His repetitive-yet-thoughtful prayer for the unity of those who belong to Him.

Why does Jesus prohibit mindless repetition? The answer is found right at the end of verse 8: “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” As with the previous example of sincerity, where the emphasis isn’t so much the place of prayer, but rather the attitude of the heart, so here the emphasis isn’t so much the length of prayer, but rather the sincere outpouring of trust.

Indeed, there are examples of both brief and long prayers in the Bible. Length is not the issue. The issue is that God already knows what we need. This truth should be acknowledged in our prayers. Whether our prayers tend to be shorter or longer, we must pray trusting that He truly knows our needs.

So, approach your heavenly Father sincerely, as a child. It’s a call to humility and trust-filled conversation. Whether you’re in your private study, the very public break room at your place of employment, or your weekly Bible study or growth group, pray with the sincerity of a child; approach God with the confidence of Father-son warmth and intimacy, with sincere humility-of-heart and wholehearted trust.

After all, God desires your sincere conversation. So much so that He gave His one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for your sins, that through faith you might not only be eternally forgiven, but that you might also be adopted as a son of God to enjoy continued conversation with Him, forever. What a wonderful grace of God: He gives us prayerful fellowship with Him to be enjoyed by us as sons of the eternal God.

Approach Him. Approach Him freely; approach Him confidently. But approach Him with sincerity. It’s a fundamental requirement for talking with God.

But prayer also requires spiritual perspective, and this leads us to our second point…

Prayer Requires Spiritual Perspective

After addressing the Father in His model prayer, Jesus then moves on to give six petitions. The first three petitions—seen in verses 9 through 10—highlight the preeminence or supremacy of God, while the last three petitions—seen in verses 11 through 13—highlight our needs and dependence on God. Pausing for a moment on the first three petitions dealing with God’s preeminence, notice the priority of God’s name, reign, and will: (1) “Hallowed be your name” (v. 9); (2) “Your kingdom come” (v. 10); and (3) “Your will be done” (v. 10).

The First Petition:

Jesus’s concern in the first petition is that God’s name would be treated with the highest honor and set apart as holy. But, it’s not that God has a need for His name to become holier. As Martin Luther has written: “What are we praying for when we ask that His name become holy? Is it not holy already?” He then answers that of course it’s holy, but that “in our use of it his name is not kelp holy.”[1] As all Christians have God’s name put upon them, thus representing and reflecting a good and holy God to the world around them, this first petition raises the Christian’s desire to keep from dishonoring God’s name—the very name by which Christians are called.

But it’s also a request for God’s name to become wondrous to us. Tim Keller affirms: “To ‘hallow’ God’s name is not merely to live righteous lives but to have a heart of grateful joy toward God—and even more, a wondrous sense of his beauty.”[2] John Calvin would agree: We do not revere His name unless He first “captivate[s] us with wonderment for him.”[3]

The Second Petition:

Jesus’s concern with the second petition is the continual advance of God’s kingdom. While it is true that He’s reigning now—individually in Christians’ hearts and collectively through Christ’s body, the church—it is also true He will ultimately reign when His kingdom is ushered in in final form, when Christ makes all things new and brings ultimate restoration in our eternal, heavenly homeland described for us in Revelation 21-22.

So, as Martin Luther has stated, to pray “Your kingdom come” is to “yearn for that future life” as citizens of heaven; it is to ask that our “future kingdom may be the end and consummation of the kingdom [God has] begun in us.”[4] Until then, this second petition is asking God to add souls to His kingdom through the faithful preaching of the gospel.

Furthermore, this second petition is also a lordship petition. It is asking God to extend His royal power over every part of our lives—our emotions, desires, thoughts, and even our commitments. Thus, to pray “Your kingdom come” is also to pray that God would fully rule us that we would want to joyfully obey Him with all our hearts.

The Third Petition:

The third and last petition in this first set of petitions is concerned with God’s will. As in Ephesians 5:17, the focus here seems to be God’s revealed will—the Word of God—and our obedience to it. It is here where we understand the importance of the initial address, for unless we are profoundly certain God is our Father, we will never be able to say, “Your will be done.” Being certain that God is our Father in heaven, we will then, like Martin Luther, be able to ask the Lord to give us obedient, God-seeking hearts in the midst of difficult circumstances: “Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this [His] divine will is crucifying our will.”[5]

God must have the preeminence, so we petition for the priority of God’s name, God’s reign, and God’s will. Our personal needs take second place. It is a spiritual perspective required in prayer. So, approach your heavenly Father with a properly oriented view toward Him. The self wants to take center-stage in our prayer lives, but, as Jesus models out for us, we must have a proper spiritual perspective when praying; the Father—not our needs—must have priority.

Why? Well, with the final ushering in of God’s kingdom in view, we recall again that Christ died for the Father’s desirous will that none should perish, but that all might be saved. And so the gospel itself reminds us that Christ submitted to the Father, for us.

Similarly, we are called to prioritize the Father, that we might have a correct, gospel-centered spiritual perspective when we pray. It’s a fundamental requirement for talking with God. As you pray, therefore, pray with sincerity and with the priority of God in view, but pray also with a surrendered heart.

This leads us to our final point…

Prayer Requires Surrender

Moving forward to the second set of petitions in The Lord’s Prayer, we now find Jesus dealing with our human needs (vv. 11-13):

The Fourth Petition:

The fourth petition is concerned with our daily bread and, by extension, all of our needs. When we petition for our needs, however, we do so with satisfaction in God and trust of God, that God would be continually glorified in our prayers. John Piper expresses it this way: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”[6]

So we petition for our daily needs, but not just for our own, we petition also for the needs of our fellow Christians, with complete Spirit-empowered satisfaction in Him.

The Fifth Petition:

The fifth petition is concerned with the restoration of our personal fellowship with God and one another. It is important to mention that forgiveness here is not so much a reference to initial salvation, or initial justification. According to Romans 5:1 and 9, believers are justified once for all at the moment of faith. Therefore, the petition cannot be a supplication for salvation or justification on a daily basis. Rather, the petition centers on fellowship with God that has been hindered by sin. We call that confession.

But, as we trust God to be “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” as 1 John 1:9 states, we are also reminded of the importance of forgiveness being extended to others in our own lives, when others’ sin against us brings a hindrance in our relationship with them.

Consequently, we are reminded, as citizens of God’s kingdom who are recipients of great forgiveness in Christ, to be eager to forgive those who are debtors to us. It’s the proper response to God’s great grace in Christ, and the response sought by the Lord in His Parable of the Unmerciful Servant found in Matthew 18:21-35. Furthermore, it’s the reason why Paul commands us in Ephesians 4:32 to forgive one another “as God in Christ forgave [us].” So important is this principle, that Jesus reemphasizes the importance of forgiving others in verses 14-15 of our text.

The Sixth Petition:

Finally, the sixth petition concerns itself with deliverance from temptation and evil, including the evil one; namely, Satan himself.

“Give, forgive, and deliver us.” In all three petitions, three of our greatest needs are highlighted:

  • We need God’s provision.
  • We need God’s forgiveness and His spiritual empowerment for our own forgiving of others.
  • We need God’s protection, both from temptation and from evil.

We are needy, helpless people, and we need God to intervene for us.

So when you pray, approach your heavenly Father with total helplessness. After all, prayer, by definition, is an acceptance of one’s weakness and dependence. Every time we pray, it is a reminder that we—in sin—were unable to reconcile ourselves with God, so God became flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ to be our strength in our weakness, to defeat great enemies we could never defeat on our own. We depend on His death, burial, and resurrection to now enjoy peace with God; to now enjoy fellowship with God; to now enjoy continued conversation with God. And this extends to the rest of life. We need God to lovingly, sovereignly, and providentially work on our behalf, according to His redemptive purposes.

Yes, we desperately need Him!

So, approach Him as the helpless, needy child you are. It’s a fundamental requirement for talking with God, done through the very Spirit of God that makes us adopted sons of God.

Concluding Summary

Jesus has graciously given us a model prayer, that through its pattern we might further experience the nearness of our Father’s presence in our lives. We’ve learned it requires sincerity, spiritual perspective, and surrender. But there’s one more thing worth mentioning: As you put into practice these three basic requirements for prayer, you’ll find that prayer itself also creates sincerity, spiritual perspective, and surrender.

Isn’t that interesting? Through our spiritual encounter with our majestic Father through prayer, prayer itself gives us more humble-and-trust-filled sincerity, more desire to prioritize God in our lives, and more surrender of our total lives to the One who has given us eternal life in Christ. In the end, prayer both requires and creates sincerity, spiritual perspective, and surrender.

Dear church: Let’s pray as Christ modeled prayer for us. Let’s pray with these three elements in mind, that our hearts might be filled with more knowledge, awareness, and gratitude of God and His grace as we seek to continue in conversation with our eternal God in heaven.

A Book to Read

If you find yourself with a desire to grow in your prayer life, allow me to suggest Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Click here to order it on Amazon’s website (currently available for $11.55).

Pastor Marttell

 


[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Large Catechism, tr. F. Samuel Janzow (St. Louis: Concordia, 1978), 84.

[2] Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 111.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeil (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 903-4.

[4] Martin Luther, “Personal Prayer Book,” in Luther’s Works: Devotional Writings II, ed. Gustav K. Wiencke, vol. 43 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1968), 32.

[5] Luther, “Personal Prayer Book,” 33.

[6] John Piper, “Christian Hedonism: Forgive the Label, But Don’t Miss the Truth,” Desiring God Foundation, accessed July 23, 2017, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/christian-hedonism.

“Giving to the Needy” Follow Up July 18, 2017

We can probably all agree that our hearts tend to desire praise and approval from others.

I see this in my own children. Anytime my 5-year-old does something he’s proud of (usually involving his creativity with Lego blocks), he shouts with the strong lungs he’s been gifted with: “Daddy, come look at what I did!” In similar fashion, my 4-year-old will call us over to observe his accomplishments, especially if his accomplishment involves coloring in any one of his many coloring books. For both, their hearts delight with joy when I give them praise.

Not much changes as we grow older. Our hearts tend to desire praise and approval from others.

So, when we obey our call to give to the needy, our giving often comes hand-in-hand with the temptation to receive and enjoy praise from fellow human beings—to bring glory to ourselves and magnify our own names.

It was no different in Jesus’s day. So much so that He addressed this same issue of praise-and-glory-seeking hearts in light of the kingdom of God and our relationship to it as God’s people, as citizens of heaven who have been given New Covenant hearts to give to others as Christ gave to us. And He addressed it as follows:

“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. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt 6:1-4).


As we studied this passage in our worship service this Sunday, we noticed two things to remember when we give to the needy:

  1. A temptation to fight against.
  2. A reward to look forward to.

Let’s review our first point…

A Temptation to Fight Against:

Jesus begins by presenting an all-important principle in the form of a warning. Notice it with me in the first verse: “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” (Matt 6:1).

Our initial warning is that practicing or expressing faith in hypocritical ways—pretending to do something to God’s glory when the motive is truly self-glorification—has no heavenly reward, at all. In cases where self-glorification is the true motive, the only reward is an earthly one—praise from fellow men, and that’s it.

Earlier in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had taught, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). So a question arises: “Do these two statements contradict one another?”

Let’s remember, back in Matthew 5:16, Jesus was explaining how His followers would function as light and salt in the world, impacting the world as people who belong to God’s kingdom. Jesus’s conclusion: Our good works as citizens of heaven are meant to glorify our Father in heaven.

This being understood, there is no contradiction at hand. There is a difference between our good works being motivated by God’s glory and our good works being motivated by self-glory, self-magnification.

Motive is the issue!

So, Jesus moves in the second verse to apply the general warning of motive to the specific practice of giving to the needy: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matt 6:2).

In Christ’s day, “relief” for the underprivileged was provided by the religious community, each person being taxed according to their ability. This amount was then supplemented by voluntary gifts, which were announced publicly at the synagogues, and, as here indicated, even in the alleyways—the places where the poor were accustomed to gather. That Jesus mentions trumpet blasts alludes to the fact that the religious leaders of His day did everything they could to advertise their gifts in order to receive praise.

For kingdom people, however, giving to the needy is motivated by God’s glory, not the magnification of oneself.

If we give for the latter purpose, to draw attention to ourselves in order to receive praise, we are only being hypocrites. In Greek—the original language of the New Testament—the word “hypocrite” originally referred to an actor who wore different masks to play various roles. But applied to faith, putting on masks meant doing right things for the wrong reasons.

William Hendriksen explains it this way: “They were hypocrites because while they pretended to give, they really intended to receive, namely, honor from men.”[1]

But praise from fellow men isn’t the only issue here. Notice the shift Jesus makes in the text: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret” (Matt 6:3-4a).

Our two hands almost always act in unison. They typically lift together, carry things together, catch things together. They can therefore be viewed as being thoroughly acquainted with each other. Whatever one does, the other knows.

With this word picture, then, Jesus is speaking of total lack of acquaintance—total ignorance—so that, as much as possible, our giving would be a secret even to ourselves.

Why?

Well, keeping the context in mind, the issue at hand is the wrong motive of human praise. So, Jesus is communicating that it’s just as wrong to praise oneself as it is to receive praise from others. It all goes back to motive: the praising, magnification, and glorification of oneself.

This is the point of all of this: Citizens of the kingdom of God give—even publicly—without desiring to magnify one’s own name. The issue isn’t giving to the needy even in public ways (more on this below), the issue is giving to the needy with the desire to magnify one’s own name, whether by others’ praise or by self-praise.

Repeatedly in Scripture, God calls His people to give to the needy, even in public ways:

Leviticus 19:9-10 commands: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God” (emphasis mine).

In a very public way, field owners were to leave some of their harvest for the poor!

Likewise, Deuteronomy 15:11 states, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”

The New Testament follows in similar suit. Galatians 6:2 states, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Without a doubt, God has a heart for the needy, the suffering, the underprivileged, and the oppressed, and He calls His people to come to their aid, especially if they also belong to Christ: “Do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

Specific to Christian giving in the church, 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 indicates that our offerings (which are given publicly in our worship services) are also to be used to aid brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need. Paul writes: “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.”

Indeed, we are called to give to the needy, especially needy saints—those who already belong to our Lord. And sometimes, this giving is even done in public ways. As we obey this command to give, though, let’s remember to fight the temptation to magnify ourselves. Yes, we are to give—even publicly—but we’re to give without desiring self-glorification.

Why? Because our Father gave us His Son. And Jesus—who gave us His lifeblood in our neediest of circumstances—deserves the praise, not us.

So, when we give, we give with the cross in mind:

  • To keep us humble.
  • To help us fight against the temptation to magnify ourselves.
  • To help us direct or redirect praise to our Lord, that Christ would be magnified, not us.

Going back to Matthew 5:16, our goal as kingdom people is for our good works—including our giving to the needy—to glorify and magnify God. So, we magnify Him, and we fight the temptation to magnify ourselves.

But we also look forward to a reward…

A Reward to Look Forward To:

Notice the end of the fourth verse in our text: As we give unto God’s glory, God rewards us, and He rewards us with Himself.

Look back to the fifth beatitude at the beginning of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt 5:7).

Earlier in our series on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, we’ve learned that the beatitudes show us the reality of life in the kingdom of God. With this specific beatitude, then, Jesus is telling us that the merciful are those who have received mercy. This is the point: The merciful are already citizens of heaven (Matt 5:3). It’s a reality of life in the kingdom of God. As regenerated citizens of heaven, therefore, we’ve already been rewarded with heaven itself, God’s very presence. As a result, we can now consistently practice mercy with the new hearts we’ve been given through faith and new life in Christ (Jer 31:31-34).

For those who already belong to the Lord, then, our new hearts in Christ not only seek to glorify God through our good works, they also look forward to and even desire our true homeland, heaven itself.

So, when we give to the needy, let’s remember to look forward to our eternal reward: God Himself, and all of heaven with Him. Why? To begin, it’s the very reason why Christ gave us Himself at the cross, that we might become heirs of God and coheirs with Him, inheriting the reward of His kingdom, forever. He wants us for all eternity, and He wants us to reflect Him and His kingdom to all who surround us, even now, that they too might become heirs of God’s eternal reward, as well.

In the end, giving with our merciful, heavenly reward in view helps us to live missionally.

No wonder Jesus gives us a temptation to fight against and a reward to look forward to. The whole point of giving to the needy is to come alongside God’s mission and His heart for the suffering, as people who have already received the benefit of the giving of His own Son to us, unto His own glory.

Fellow citizens of heaven: Let’s remember to glorify Him through our giving, and let’s remember His merciful reward to us as we give while sojourning on this earth.

You have everything you need to fight the temptation of self-glory and to remember your heavenly reward. God has given you a new heart that now desires His glory, not your own. He has even given you His very own Spirit to remind you of your heavenly reward. Therefore, ask the Spirit of our Lord who dwells within your new heart to spiritually enable you to remember these two things in your own compassionate giving, today.

-Pastor Marttell


[1] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 1 of New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2004), 320.

Matthew 5.38-42 Follow Up July 3, 2017

On Sunday Jesus addressed the issue of personal revenge as he spoke about the legal principle of an eye for an eye. In the sermon we first looked at 2 things we easily miss in this text:

  1. We miss the context. Jesus is not addressing the legal system or the role of the government in restraining evil.
  2. We miss the power. We don’t want to just explain away this text so that it means nothing.

After this, we looked at 2 truths that we need which are shown to us in this text:

  1. We must not prioritize our rights. Jesus gives 4 examples in this text and the first two focus on the fact that our personal rights are not the most important thing. We must be willing to suffer wrong.
  2. We must prioritize service. The last 2 examples Jesus gives actually encourage doing good to others. We are not just called to cease from seeking personal revenge, but we are also called to do good to our enemies (more on this next week).

If you need the discussion questions from the bulletin, here they are: Matt. 5.38-42 Notes.

 

-Pastor Nathan Hogan

 

Matthew 5.27-30 Follow Up June 12, 2017

In Matthew 5.27-30 Jesus discusses the 7th commandment: do not commit adultery. He explains that the true fulfillment of this law is seeing that it also addresses the lust that lurks in our hearts. This last Sunday we saw that Jesus once again spoke about the reality of lust, and then explained the replacement of lust: fighting against it. Jesus uses drastic language that equates fighting against lust with plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand. This figure of speech gives us 4 things to remember as we fight against lust:

  1. Remember the seriousness of lust. Lust, like all sin, is worthy of God’s judgement. It is worth fighting against it.
  2. Choose the right target. We need to cut off that which feeds our lust.
  3. Be ready for a painful fight. Having safeguards against lust may sometimes be painful. We may even be mocked by others. Don’t expect it to be easy!
  4. Trust that purity is better. Jesus reminds us repeatedly that fighting lust “is better.” The blessings of a godly life always outweigh the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Here are the discussion questions that were in Sunday’s bulletin: Matt. 5.27-30 Notes.

 

-Pastor Nathan Hogan

Matthew 5.21-26 Follow Up June 5, 2017

In Matthew 5.21-26 Jesus begins to deal with individual commandments (or versions of those commandments as presented in the Jewish traditions of the day). Jesus starts to show us what fulfilling the Law looks like, and he starts with the most obvious command: do not murder. Jesus explains that murder comes from the same sinfully angry part of our hearts that our harsh words come from. Both sinful anger in our hearts and murder are worthy of judgment. Instead of giving into sinful anger, a kingdom-person will zealously seek out peace with others.

We looked at 2 things that Jesus explains about sinful anger in this text:

  1. Jesus shows us anger’s reality. The reality of anger is that it is worthy of judgment and springs from our selfish desires.
  2. Jesus shows us anger’s replacement. Jesus does not just call us to stop being sinfully angry, but to actively seek out peace with others instead.

Here are some discussion questions based on the sermon: Matt. 5.21-26 Notes.

 

-Pastor Nathan Hogan