It was another meaningful week as we continued to take a closer look at the words of the Sermon on the Mount …
Memory Verse: “Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy: Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9b-11a)
Our first reading was Matthew 5:38-48, where we find some familiar phrases. There were interesting facts about the origin of these phrases. The Pharisees had twisted the “eye for an eye”; “turn the other cheek”; and “go the extra mile.”
Jesus turns these all upside down in an effort to teach us
- to give up rights for the good of others
- to live lives of grace and not be judgmental
- to pray for our enemies (or those who dislike us)
We know we won’t be able to do these things in our own strength. Our human nature is fallen and will fail us. The study brought a sentence I found most provoking:
“It must be from an overflow of abiding in Him.”
(Sermon on the Mount, page 80)
These days in which we are living are requiring more than a quick reading of a devotional or a few verses. If we are going to be people who are changed, transformed by Jesus, it will be from the overflow of abiding. We must go above and beyond in our abiding.
How does Christ likeness come as a result of abiding in Jesus?
It was verse 6 which had our attention:
“But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (NASB)
The verse brought to mind how Jesus often withdrew not only from the crowds, but even from His own disciples in order to spend time in prayer alone.
The study points out how the Pharisees prayed where they could be seen so they would be viewed as “spiritual”. The Gentiles prayed words without any thought, saying repetitive phrases, in order to check off a box.
Jesus went to His Father in prayer to stay on mission, to keep His heart aligned with His Father’s purposes. How much more do we need to do so for our hearts to remain focused on the Father’s will.
Jesus wants us to pray with our hearts, with meaning, with boldness, with humility, with sincerity.
The last paragraph of the study was powerful:
“So we should come in prayer with great humility and with great boldness. We come because He has asked us to come. We come because we don’t know where else to turn. We come because we know that He will do abundantly more than we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). We come because we know that we will find shelter for our souls in the presence of our God.”
(Sermon on the Mount, page 88)
How can we pray differently in light of Jesus’ instruction on how to pray?
Come. Pray. Humbly and boldly. Find shelter in His Presence.
We closed the week with Matthew 6:16-18. The topic? Fasting.
Fasting is to be for our spiritual growth. It draws us closer to God as our hearts are cleansed and align with His will. Fasting is giving up and can be of anything – food, social media, sweets, wine, coffee, soda, television.
But when we fast, we see that it is to be done “in secret”:
“But as for you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that your fasting will not be noticed by people but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (NASB)
The study brought this insight:
“Jesus is calling us to a higher standard. He is calling us to live for an audience of one. He is calling us to live a life where we do not focus on what other people think of us, where we don’t focus on what we think of ourselves, but where we focus on following after the Lord with an undivided heart.”
(Sermon on the Mount, page 96)
Jesus is really turning it all upside down. Much of our spiritual life is to be done “in secret”. And yet, what we do in secret will yield fruit in our lives which we may not necessarily see, but may be seen by others.
The study asks: What is the difference between living as a light in the world like we saw in Matthew 5:14-16 and living for the approval of men like we have seeing Chapter 6?
We must abide in Christ if we are going to be different.
Find shelter in His Presence,
living for an audience of One.