Sermon title:  FOCUS ON GOD AND TRUST IN HIM

Matthew 6:1-13

    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, May 6, 2018

 

 

Back to ImmanuelBaptistNB.org

 

 

The most important book you can ever read

is the Bible.

But people have different ways they like to read it.

When I was in Junior High School,

I was in the Boy Scouts,

and I was working on the “God and Country” Award.

So, it seemed like a good idea to read the Bible.

But, it was a really thick book—

quite intimidating—

so, I skipped ahead

and read the last part first—the book of Revelation—

to see how it would end.

But, I have to admit,

at that time, I didn’t get much out of the Book of Revelation.

In fact, in my inexperienced stupidity,

I wrongly concluded

that it seemed to have been written

by someone on “an acid trip”—

by someone who had taken LSD

or some other hallucinogenic drug.

 

For one thing,

you need to read the rest of the Bible first,

in order to begin to understand the symbolism in Revelation.

And, for another thing,

I was reading without faith,

without prayer,

and without God’s Holy Spirit to guide me.

 

So, I didn’t get much out of the Book of Revelation at that time.

 

Since then, of course,

I’ve prayerfully read the Bible cover to cover

more times than I can count.

I try to read it each time in a different translation,

since a different way of putting the same thought

can sometimes help us better grasp the point.

 

So, I tend to read the Bible from cover to cover.

 

But there are many other ways to approach it.

 

Some people prefer to pray for guidance

and then open the Bible at random

to read whatever is on the page they happen to open.

The important thing, though,

is to look for the meaning God intended—

not just a subjective “what it means to me.”

 

And the best way to determine the meaning of a passage

is usually to read the context—

the words that appear immediately before

and immediately after

the passage we’re trying to understand.

 

If we read a passage out of context,

we can cheat ourselves out of

the full understanding of that passage.

 

I mention that, because there’s a passage

in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

that has puzzled people for centuries—

especially people who read it out of context.

 

It’s found in the middle of Matthew, Chapter 6.[  OPEN  ]

That’s right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount,

which fills Matthew Chapters 5 through 7.

 

And, right in the middle of Matthew Chapter 6,

if we read this passage out of context,

it seems that Jesus is recommending

a visit to the optometrist, the eye doctor.

 

In Matthew 6, Verses 22 and 23, Jesus said,

 

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body.

If your eyes are good,

your whole body will be full of light.

23 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!

 

There are various eye diseases and injuries

like glaucoma and macular degeneration

and retina detachment

that can cause your eyes to go bad,

and that can leave you in darkness

in a very literal sense.

But that isn’t what Jesus is talking about here.

 

What IS he talking about?

 

Well, as usual, the context will answer that question for us.

The verses that appear before and after this section

make it clear what Jesus meant.

 

So, let’s go back to the beginning of Matthew, Chapter 6

the portion we read in our Responsive Reading this morning—

and look at that context.

 

In the first two verses, our Lord tells us what NOT to do.

He says,

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.

2 "So when you give to the needy,

do not announce it with trumpets,

as the hypocrites do in the synagogues

and on the streets, to be honored by men.

I tell you the truth,

they have received their reward in full.

 

That might be a little hard for us to understand

since we don’t see people today

blowing trumpets in church or on the street

to announce their good deeds or charitable gifts.

 

But you’ve probably seen a ceremony on TV,

where a wealthy philanthropist

presents a large check to a charity.

And I mean a LARGE check, literally.

 

They have a poster shop create a huge copy

of their million-dollar check—

so big that it takes a couple of people

to hold it up in front of the cameras.

 

The recipient of the check

is all smiles, shaking hands with the benefactor,

as press photographers light up the stage,

with their flash bulbs,

taking photos to be broadcast everywhere.

 

That’s one modern equivalent

of blowing trumpets to announce a charitable gift.

The giver receives thanks from the charity,

and may receive admiration and applause

from crowds of onlookers.

 

But, do they receive a reward from God?

Jesus says NO.  He says they

have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

He says the honor they get from their admirers

is all that they get. 

He says,

“they have received their reward in full.”

 

So, how SHOULD we go about

doing good deeds and acts of charity?

 

Jesus continues in Verses 3 and 4 to say,

3 But when you give to the needy,

do not let your left hand

know what your right hand is doing,

4 so that your giving may be in secret.

Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

 

And this is where “your eye” comes into the picture,

where Jesus said,

If your eyes are good,

your whole body will be full of light.

23 But if your eyes are bad,

your whole body will be full of darkness.

 

When we blow a trumpet

to announce our good deeds,

or give our LARGE check to a charity

on a stage in front of press photographers,

then our eye is “bad.”

Our eye is on being “honored by men.”

 

We don’t receive the light of God,

but instead we close our eyes to God,

and turn instead

to the darkness

of self-importance and selfishness.

 

So, Jesus wasn’t recommending a visit to the eye doctor,

but rather an adjustment in what we focus on. 

Instead of trying to impress other people,

we should focus on pleasing God. 

And, if we do, he will reward us.

 

Even prayer can be turned into a bad thing

if our eyes are focused

on receiving honor from men.

 

Continuing in Matthew 6, Verse 5, Jesus said,

5 "And when you pray,

do not be like the hypocrites,

for they love to pray standing in the synagogues

and on the street corners

to be seen by men.

I tell you the truth,

they have received their reward in full.

 

So, praying to be seen by men

is just like doing acts of charity

to be seen by men.

It may bring us rewards from men,

but no reward at all from God.

 

How should we pray, then?

In Verse 6 Jesus says,

 

6 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.

 

If we pray with an eye toward impressing others,

our eye is bad,

and the light in us is actually darkness.

But, if we keep our eyes on God when we pray,

then we are full of light.

 

God doesn’t like a show-off.

If we’re praying to show off in front of others,

God does not accept our prayer.

A private prayer

behind closed doors

is just between us and God—

and he listens to our prayer.

 

And God isn’t impressed by the length of our prayer, either,

or by the use of flowery language.

 

In Verses 7 and 8, Jesus said,

 

7 And when you pray,

do not keep on babbling like pagans,

for they think they will be heard

because of their many words.

8 Do not be like them,

for your Father knows what you need

before you ask him.

 

I’ve had the car radio tuned to religious broadcasting,

and I’ve heard someone praying

with eloquent, flowery language,

King James English—full of thee’s and thou’s,

as if God doesn’t understand

ordinary, everyday English.

Such prayers can be impressive.

People in the audience might think,

‘God really listens to that clergyman,

because he can speak God’s language.’

They might even be hesitant to pray, themselves,

because they can’t do the thee’s and thou’s.

 

But, God isn’t impressed.

In fact, a simple prayer from the heart

is the kind that God appreciates most.

 

Jesus went on to say,

9 "This, then, is how you should pray:

"'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.'

 

The additional words,

“For yours is the kingdom and the power

and the glory forever,”

appear to have been added

to later manuscripts.

Those words don’t appear in the oldest manuscripts.

There’s nothing wrong with saying those words,

because it’s true

that the kingdom and the power and the glory forever

belong to God,

but Jesus may not have spoken those words.

 

When we say, “hallowed be your name,”

that means we want God’s name to be treated with respect,

for his name to be treated as holy and special.

Today, the Lord’s name

is not supposed to be mentioned

at public events and in public places.

Chaplains in the military and elsewhere

are now instructed not to pray in Jesus’ name.

How important it is, especially now,

for us to pray, “hallowed be your name”!

 

We pray for God’s kingdom to come

and for his “will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

We are a church preaching Christ, crucified, risen and coming again.

His kingdom will come

when Christ comes again.

Then his will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 

We pray,

11 Give us today our daily bread.

We’re not asking for riches and gold,

but just for God to meet our daily needs.

And he promises to do that for his people.

 

When we say,

12 “Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors,”

we’re acknowledging how important it is

for us to be forgiving toward others.

Our asking God to forgive us,

is tied in with our forgiving others.

 

Right after concluding the Lord’s Prayer,

in Verse 14, Jesus went on to say,

14 For if you forgive men

when they sin against you,

your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

 

15 But if you do not forgive men their sins,

your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

That makes it pretty plain,

that we ought to have a forgiving attitude toward others.

 

And then we ask our heavenly Father,

lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.”

 

Temptations to sin are all around us,

and we need God’s help

every day and at every moment

to escape from the traps Satan lays for us.

------------------------------

 

And then, in Verse 16,

Jesus goes back to the importance

of not being show-offs.  He says,

 

16 "When you fast,

do not look somber as the hypocrites do,

for they disfigure their faces

to show men they are fasting.

I tell you the truth,

they have received their reward in full.

17 But when you fast,

put oil on your head and wash your face,

18 so that it will not be obvious to men

that you are fasting,

but only to your Father, who is unseen;

and your Father, who sees what is done in secret,

will reward you.

 

So, Jesus again repeated

his warning against doing religious things

to look good to others.

 

First he said that about charitable good deeds,

then about prayer,

and now about fasting.

If we do these things,

we should have our eyes on God,

not on how religious we look to other people.

----------------------------

 

Now, in Matthew 6:19,

our Lord brings up another area of life

where we need to focus our eyes on God.    

And this is in regard to material things:

money, wealth, property, and riches.

 

Beginning in Verse 19, he says,

 

19 "Do not store up for yourselves

treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy,

and where thieves break in and steal.

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy,

and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21 For where your treasure is,

there your heart will be also.

 

So, our Lord is making two points here:

First, that earthly riches are fleeting and temporary.

And Second,

that our heart will be attached to what we treasure—

either our relationship with God,

or this world’s treasures.

 

Moths can eat up our fine clothing.

Rust can ruin our fancy cars and trucks.

And thieves can break in and steal

our money and our treasured possessions.

Jesus says, instead,

store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”

because our treasures in heaven

can’t be stolen from us.

 

1st Corinthians 2:9 says,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,

no mind has conceived

what God has prepared for those who love him"

 

Those treasures in heaven

are beyond anything we can imagine.

 

They make this world’s Lamborghinis and Porsches 

and sea-side villas seem like just a pile of trash.

 

At Philippians 3:8, the Apostle Paul

wrote of the riches and wealth he had lost,

and said,

“I consider them rubbish,

that I may gain Christ”

 

And that’s the view

of earthly things, compared with heavenly things

that we need to have with spiritual eyes.

That’s what Jesus was talking about,

when he continued in Matthew 6:22, to say,

 

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body.  

If your eyes are good,

your whole body will be full of light.

23 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!

 

If our focus is on this world’s treasures,

then we are really in darkness.

---------------

 

Now, our sinful flesh will tell us,

I can pursue treasure on earth—I can work at becoming rich—

AND focus on God.

I can accumulate treasure on earth AND in heaven.

 

But, at Matthew 6:24,

our Lord shoots down

that way of thinking.    He says,

 

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.

 

So, we’re only fooling ourselves,

if we think we can trick the system,

and pursue riches,

while also pursuing our relationship with God.

 

Eventually, we’ll be forced to choose.

And, if we’re devoted to Money,

it will ruin our walk with God.

-----------------------

We may not be trying to get rich,

but worry and insecurity

can also cause us to focus our eyes on Money

instead of on God.

 

Putting God first

really comes down to a matter of trust.

 

If we put faith in Jesus,

and trust that he’s telling us the truth,

then we’ll believe what he says next.

 

Beginning at Matthew 6:23,

our Lord gives us a series of illustrations,

to help us develop the right attitude.

He says,

 

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?

 

26 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?

 

27 Who of you by worrying

can add a single hour to his life ?

 

28 "And why do you worry about clothes?

See how the lilies of the field grow.

They do not labor or spin.

29 Yet I tell you

that not even Solomon in all his splendor

was dressed like one of these.

30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today

and tomorrow is thrown into the fire,

will he not much more clothe you,

O you of little faith?

 

31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?'

or 'What shall we drink?'

or 'What shall we wear?'

32 For the pagans run after all these things,

and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

 

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

 

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,

for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

So, when Jesus talked about

our “eye” being good or bad,

he wasn’t recommending a visit to the eye doctor,

but rather an adjustment in what we focus on. 

Keeping our eyes on God will help us have the right attitude.

 

Instead of trying to impress other people

or chasing after material things,

we should focus on pleasing God. 

If we do, he promises to reward us with everything we need.

 

"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.”

 

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things

will be given to you as well.

 (Matthew 6:22-23, 33)