Posts tagged ‘Sermon on the Mount’

SOTM – The Two Foundations

SOTM – The Two Foundations

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall.” When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:21-29)

The Sermon on the Mount is a message from Jesus about the Kingdom of Heaven. With that in mind now at the end of His sermon Jesus is correcting His listeners on their understanding of what it takes to be accepted into the Kingdom. In His sermon Jesus has been answering questions that people might have about the Kingdom. In the Kingdom of Heaven people would want to know what God’s rule would be like. Believing that people would rather be in heaven as to the other option they would want to know who are close to God and entering the Kingdom and who would not? The answers to these questions throughout His sermon has been surprising to His listeners. From the very start of the sermon Jesus made an astonishing statement. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

In the present day of His teaching the Kingdom of Heaven was something that someone would have to earn to gain entry. To enter into God’s Kingdom one would have to be completely obedient to the Law of God as written by Moses. It was viewed as a contractual agreement by the standard of the Old Covenant Law. If one kept the law in its entirety, then God would allow them entry into His Kingdom. This is what the scribes and Pharisees taught and practiced. Jesus clearly was challenging that teaching. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) This must have popped a bubble in the minds of the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees were devoted to observing the law obediently. Jesus is now teaching that it is not good enough to enter into the Kingdom.

The righteousness that Jesus desires is not fulfilling a contractual agreement but having a trust in God to make us pure enough to have a right relationship with Him. This relationship we are to have is one of faith to trust God that He will give us what we need to have a right relationship with Him. This is the message that Jesus has been teaching and this is the mission that He came to fulfill, a way that we can be righteous in the eyes of God the Father. The righteousness that Jesus will give us is not the righteousness we can create by being religious. It is certainly not the righteousness that we think we can gain from the words of the false teachers, which lead us down the path to destruction. We cannot trust in our own selves and what we think we can do for the Kingdom and expect to ever arrive there.

To enter in to the Kingdom of Heaven we must recognize and believe who Jesus is. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) All of our obedience must be towards Jesus. All of our words and deeds must come from our faith and trust in who He is. Jesus is our Lord and if our actions are not in response to Him, then they have no recognizable value and connection to Jesus as our Lord. Jesus is searching for a reflection of Himself in our actions. This is what the Christian is striving to become the image of our Master and Lord. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29) Only our faith and trust in Him honors Him.

We have been purchased by the redeeming blood of the Son of God, Jesus, and therefore we are not our own, we are twice His. Once by creation and twice by redemption. As we have believed on Him He has accepted us and we are to be submitted to His rule over our lives. “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) We have come to the truth that we were created to serve Him by living our lives in His will to accomplish His good works. We are on His mission to share the gospel message of God’s salvation for man. Therefore we must confess and believe in the One that God raised from the dead. “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) As the follower of Jesus lives to exalt Him in this world He will exalt us in the world to come. “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10)

We have converted, we have repented from the ways of the world. We now do not follow our own lust for the worldly things but seek His Kingdom and His righteousness. We are no longer of this world, “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10) but are of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, we are to live in the transformation of His power over our lives. Our hearts and minds must reflect that change in us. We must be growing into the image of Christ. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

The structure that we build our Christian faith upon determines how we will face the trials that the adversary will place into our paths. If you are to speak on God’s behalf, then you must know His Word. This is the foundation that we build our spiritual lives upon the Word of God. “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:16-18) What the Christian says and what the Christian does is what is judged by the nonbelievers. If we are to be the lights of righteousness in the world then our light must be the true light. There are many false lights out there that do not give full vision of the truth. People cry for truth as much as they cry for peace and the Christian is supposed to be both, at peace with God and living in truth. If you love the Lord, then listen to His Word, listen to His Spirit through His Word, and pray. “A fool rejects his father’s discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible.” (Proverbs 15:5)

There are many philosophies in this world for men to live by. They seem to be of good advice but they are built upon flawed men who have flawed thinking. If this were not so the problems of this world certainly should have been solved by now. Yet the problems we face today seem to magnify. I remember a song of long ago titled “The Things We Do for Love.” The opening lyric was this, “Too many broken hearts have fallen in the river, Too many lonely souls have drifted out to sea, You lay your bets and then you pay the price.” Without a strong and true foundation built on the word of the Ancient of Days a life is built on nothing less than quick sand and will not stand the test of time. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

The people were amazed by the power and authority of Jesus’ teaching. He spoke in that context because all power and authority was His. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Jesus promised that God would supply all of man’s needs if they would put Him above all else. We are not only to applaud this Sermon on the Mount that the Son of God spoke to us, but we are to apply it to our life. We must discipline our lives by its practice and praise God for His gift of instruction.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, July 20, 2016

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SOTM – The Narrow and Wide Gates

SOTM – The Narrow and Wide Gates

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:13-20)

During His Sermon on the Mount Jesus has been warning His disciples, His followers, and the scribes and Pharisees that have been listening not to follow the teachings of false teachers but that of His, as His words are the truth. We have seen in chapter five a series of they say on issues and what He says. There were six of these sayings and He began with this truth. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

From that point I believe that Jesus was stating that the twisted false truths of the self-righteous was far from sufficient to gain one entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. I tend to believe that the self-righteous have not graduated from the physical into the spiritual realm of meaning. There is nothing physical that we can do that will grant us entry into the Kingdom. We are spiritual beings living in a physical tent which will remain here when we depart this world. Our focus is the spiritual poverty that we have and the richness that we can receive from our Lord and Savior. It is His Kingdom that we seek and we get there through His Righteousness. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Jesus made a comparison to murder, (Matthew 5:21-22) adultery, (Matthew 5:27-28) divorce, (Matthew 5:31:32) making false vows, (Matthew 5:33-34) vengeance, (Matthew 5:38-39) and the way we treat those who oppose us. (Matthew 5:43-44) Not all of what they had said was Scriptural and therefore was not truth. It was also in the perspective of governing our physical bodies for the appearance of men and not our soul and spirit to live honorably for the Father who sees in secret. The problem for man is not in his body but in his heart. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Jesus narrows life down into two paths that we can take, the broad road and the narrow road. I have hear many tell me that the broad road is easy and that is why many walk in it. I hear it said many times that the Christian life is a life where we have to give up all that is fun. I just muse that these people do not know what fun is. I have given up nothing that is fun, as I have learned that there is no fun in doing evil things. I have also learned that it is just as hard to live an unrighteous life as it is a righteous life. Some have been taught that living the Christian life is all good and it is hard to argue against that but it does not mean that it is easy either. I found both roads to be just as challenging. The difference is that when I walk in the Kingdom path, in His will, I am empowered to do the work that He has set before me. When I step out of His will that is when I quickly become overwhelmed. I don’t see it as unjust trouble but the love of my Heavenly Father, as He disciplines me through the trials of this world. “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)

The broad path leading to the wide gate is the path that most will talk and I think the greater error is that they do not have a proper eternal perspective. Once they have crossed over, sadly, it is too late to correct their error. They get on the broad road because it is more popular and people like to be in the masses. This thinking started in childhood, “everyone is doing it so it must be okay.” It is a path of deception and few see it, as they set their worldly goals and strive to achieve it. Some find success and some find constant defeat but they never see beyond the horizon because they all are short sighted. They think they are on the wide road because it is the popular place to be and that makes it right, the truth is that the wide road through the wide gate narrows down to death and that is final. “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)

The narrow road which leads to the narrow gate is harder to find. But unlike the broad road which narrows to death, the narrow road widens to eternal life. All have seen this narrow road and most reject it. They are gods unto their own selves and their own thoughts are the gods that they serve. They do not submit to the law of men and they will not submit to the law of God. Yet they fail to know the truth, as they plow into their sinful living the wage of their sin has been paid in full by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. They cannot accept Jesus or His way and I suppose there are many more reasons than I can understand. But I do know this, and all do, that it boils down to that twinkling of an eye when life here is over and we find ourselves face to face with the truth. There will be no question then. Did we follow the truth or did we reject it. For those on the narrow road, who lived in the truth of God’s Word they will have found the perfect abundant life. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)

There are many false teachers on the broad road who appear to be sheep but are really wolves. They are not only on the broad road keeping their unsuspecting converts in line but they can be found in many a Church behind the pulpit. Our society has abandoned the truth. God is no longer in our schools, no longer allowed in our public places, and we are not allowed to speak to Him in prayer. Those who think they have done us a good service have violated our constitutional right to practice our faith openly. They think that they have done something but they have fallen to the deceit of Satan and they are his instruments. If Satan can take God’s Word out of the life of people, then how can the people know the truth? If the Church opens their Bibles on Sunday and allows them to collect dust during the week, then how will they know if their teachers are speaking the truth or false doctrine? We have become a nation of foolish children who know not the way to go. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

As we know a good tree from a bad tree by its fruit so we will know the true teacher from the false teacher by the fruit that he produces. There are those who excuse sinful living. They teach that where sin abounds the grace of God abounds all the more. (Romans 5:20) They teach that this gives license for man to continue to live in his sins. This is not true as they would be denying the work of the Holy Spirit which is sanctification. The Christian cannot continue to live freely in sin. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9) Paul’s point to the Romans is that God’s grace is sufficient to forgive their sin. But there are many other false doctrines that are being taught in the world today and we can discern them by the fruit they produce. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21) Do not follow them, follow Jesus.

The teachers of His doctrine will produce the good fruit. The fruit that will lead to eternal life and is evidence that the Lord is the Master of their life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, July 13, 2016

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SOTM-Prayer and the Golden Rule

SOTM-Prayer and the Golden Rule

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

As we go through each section of The Sermon on the Mount it is hard at times to see the flow of thought that Jesus is teaching. It may be difficult to see how this week’s lesson relates to the week prior and how the verses 7-11 tie into verses 12. One of the important things to understand is that Jesus is revealing to us the character of His Heavenly Father. In these verses Jesus goes on to teach us the wonderful giving character of God the Father. Then Jesus closes with what has become to be known as the Golden Rule. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

How does the Golden Rule relate to what Jesus has just taught about trusting in the giving character of God and how does prayer relate to the previous section on judging others? Some previous points in His sermon we must remember are the lessons Jesus has taught us about the character and purposes of the Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father is the one who sees in secret and is ready to reward us in Heaven. His mercy endures forever and He will satisfy are longing for righteousness. The righteousness that God expects His children to have exceeds our morality that we can achieve. Jesus in His sermon is teaching us to have a trust in the God who has created us and loves us.

Jesus is teaching us to live with God first in our lives. Our Pastor calls this attitude third place. God first, others second, and us last. By placing God and His Kingdom first the rest of our lives will flow from that. We have been warned not to be judgmental towards others, as by the same measure we judge we shall be judged. We are not all knowing as God and therefore should not presume that we can have the last word on someone’s life. But there is a balance that we must achieve as Jesus teaches us to be discerning at the same time. We are to be participants with Jesus and His work in the life and lives of others by trusting that He has the last word. Jesus has the last word on them and He has the last word on us.

Without seeking His Kingdom and righteousness first we cannot have a clear relationship with others and we can’t clearly see ourselves either. When judging the character of others and our self we must know the standard is that of our Heavenly Father. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  We are given the opportunity to come into God’s presence through His Son Jesus. It is through Him that we receive our salvation. “Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29)

If we know His purpose than we should know what our purpose is and that of others. Without this point of view then we will tend to be judgmental of others and become concerned with the speak in their eye without taking care of the log in our eye first. It has always been easier for me to judge others than to honestly judge myself. We cannot lose the presence of God with us and try to make decisions about others that are His to make.

Jesus is encouraging us to seek God with the assurance that God is ready to be found. “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29) He is also a Heavenly Father that is wanting to reward His children. When we seek Him and His righteousness then we can have the confidence that “all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus is telling His listeners to ask, seek, and knock that God’s good rule will be done and His reign will be active in our lives.

We are to be persistent in our prayer life to the Father. We are to continually ask, seek, and knock. We come to Him in faith that He is faithful and true and will answer our prayer in His times. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) We have the assurance of Jesus that His Father is a loving Father and will bless us with His good and perfect gifts. If we are lacking of the blessings of the Father, then are we persistently asking, seeking, and knocking? “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)

Jesus closes with this command, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus uses the word “therefore” which makes the connection between seeking the giving God to how we are to treat others. Because God is loving and giving we are free to treat other people as we would have them treat us. We do not have to have the last word on others or to condemn them, as we are not dependent upon them to provide the things we need nor are we needed to provide for them as it is only God who can give.

Neither do we need to fear their judgment upon us since they do not have the final word on us. Perhaps we become judgmental when others let us down. Could it be that we are asking something from them that only God can give? Do we try to do something for others that only God can do? So many times we have a tendency to wait for others to make the first move. Or do we want a guarantee that by our acts of grace there will be something good for us? When we have freely received from our Heavenly Father then we can freely give in grace because we are not dependent upon them and their response for our identity. This allows us to treat others as we would have them treat us regardless of how they treat us. When out lifeline is attached to God we do not have to depend on a lifeline attached to others.

Our relationship with God always comes first and then we treat others the way we want to be treated. It is then that we will be acting towards others as God wants us to treat our fellowman. This summarizes the teachings of the law and the prophets. To practice this in a truthful way we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Our love and devotion towards our God is reflected in our attitude towards others. “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:2-21) It is the work of the Holy Spirit to fill the measure that we cannot do for ourselves. The Holy Spirit loves others through us.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, July 4, 2016

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SOTM-Judging Others

SOTM-Judging Others

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:1-6)

One side of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is to help His listeners to know the character of the Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father who is ever present and sees us in secret, and our Heavenly Father is wanting to reward us with His care and comfort. We are not to live a life in anxiety because our Heavenly Father knows our needs and He is directly involved in His creation. By our trust in God and our faith in Jesus we are free to devote ourselves to seek His Kingdom and live according to His good and perfect will.

In this next section of Scripture we are looking at judgment. In the Greek this word judgment has a double meaning. Judgment means discernment and condemnation. The purpose of discernment for ourselves and others is our hope of restoration, healing, and sanctification. Our judgment of our selves is a self-examination to see that we are living in the faith that we are striving to be more Christ like. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Our judgment or discernment of others is the hope that God will heal and transform those that we are concerned about in Christian love. Even for those who themselves have hurt us. Our discernment is never to place the final word upon someone as we do not know the true heart of that person and only God does and He knows the last word.

The other side of the Sermon on the Mount is that Jesus is teaching us the characteristics of the true Christian character. At the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was teaching His disciples, He was teaching the crowds who had come to hear Him, and the scribes and Pharisees were there as well. We must remember that Jesus did not come to condemn but to save and His mission was aimed at the scribes and Pharisees as well as all others, but the scribes and Pharisees did not have ears to hear. In many places of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus drew a contrast between the true believers and the religious elite, the scribes and Pharisees. As we have previously discussed we are not to practice our righteousness or piety to impress others. God is our audience and sees in secret and knows what we do and He is our judge. We are not to live for the admiration of men but for the approbation of God.

Jesus used the Pharisees as His prime example of religious hypocrisy. The Pharisees had established a religion of righteousness, works and law. People are judged the most by people who feel superior in their own self-righteousness. The problem with this is that they are comparing themselves amongst their peers and the common sinners of the day. What they fail to realize is that God judges righteousness by one standard, that of His Son Jesus Christ.

There are those whom I have known that say they never judge. I just smile and move on. People make judgments all though their day. Our very reaction to the events of our life require that we make judgments. The question becomes are they judgments of condemnation or they discernments based on our love for their spiritual welfare? Jesus was making judgments on the Pharisees but He was not doing so to condemn them, He was trying to persuade them to turn the light on. This is the context of our discernment to lift them up to a better life in the bonds of Christian love.

So many times at funerals I hear people decide if that person has gone to heaven or to the pit. How can they possibly know, none of us is capable to think or judge as the righteous judge, God. We can suspect but we cannot know whose servant that person truly was. “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4)

We may think that we know the true motives of someone, the intentions of their heart, but can we really know. Jeremiah said the heart is so deceitful that none can know it. (Jeremiah 17:9) We should not judge the motives of others and only react to what they have revealed. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11)

We should never judge someone for things that we ourselves have been involved with also. I believe that given time all things will come to truth, certainly when the Lord returns and absolutely when we face out own judgment. Jesus taught that we should remove these things from our own vision before we point to what others are doing. How could we understand the struggle they are going through if we ourselves have not fought the battle? “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

There is an argument against profiling in our society today and I am not arguing either for or against. But we should hold back from making hasty judgments based upon outward appearances. I was in a Church back home in West Virginia a few years back and a young girl came in and sat down in front of me. One of the ladies of the Church came over and told the girl that she would have to leave because her clothes were not up to standard for that Church. As it turns out they had a quest preacher that Sunday and it was his daughter that was asked to leave. People have a tendency to be presumptive and make judgments which are not based on the truth. Who of us is righteous enough to make the judgments of God on His children? “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

I have learned by experience that God convicts people in different ways. One man’s treasure is another’s trash. What may be sinful to one may not be for another. We should not judge people on errors that are not contained in the Scriptures. This perhaps was one of the greater charges against the Pharisees. “One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.” (Romans 14:2-3)

We must not forget the attitude that the Christian is to have. Jesus began this sermon with the beatitudes and the fifth one was, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) When we judge we should not judge out of condemnation but out of love and a willingness to show mercy. As Jesus is teaching us here that we will be judged by the same measure that we judge others. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

We are to edify our brothers and sisters in the faith. This is one of the reasons that we go to Church to help each other grow in our spiritual maturity. When we make these discernments we are coming against the action and not the person. When a person has violated a principle of Scripture we can work to correct that person without condemning them. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

We are a family, a family of God’s children and when one has stumbled and in need of spiritual guidance we should do so with meekness as we too have a frailty that the adversary longs to exploit. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

It is a fine line that we must walk with people. It should always be preceded by prayer. We are not the judge of people but we must disseminate between those who have a desire to learn of the spiritual things. There are some that do and many who do not. We are to protect the holy truths of God from those who will only ridicule the truth because of its painful conviction. There are those who will turn to blasphemy of God Himself. I hear and read enough OMG’s every day to know they have no fear of the Lord. “Therefore, thus says the LORD, “If you return, then I will restore you– Before Me you will stand; And if you extract the precious from the worthless, You will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you, But as for you, you must not turn to them.” (Jeremiah 15:19)

We must live our lives for Christ guided by the Holy Spirit who will discern between those who are ready to hear the gospel message of Jesus Christ and those who will reject it and ridicule it. Sadly, for the most part we live in a world that is carnally minded and are not capable to understand the spiritual things. This we must know that to them we are speaking foolishness and they will never listen to the truth that we wish to share. It is painful to see and all we can do is pray that God will open the door. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.” (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 28, 2016

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SOTM-The Cure for Anxiety

SOTM-The Cure for Anxiety

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

Last week we were looking at storing up treasures for ourselves and the futility of that. It is the same as one who buries their treasure in the dirt. The treasure does no good for the one who buried it and it does no good for the society around us. The bottom line is all that we have and all we will ever have is on loan to us from God, as it is all His. It has no value to us outside of this world and here it will remain. The only true treasure that we will ever have is the treasure that we have stored up in the Kingdom of Heaven. With that said God Himself is the greatest treasure that we can have here and in the eternity to come. This truth should be our first focus on everything that we think, say, and do. This Proverb from Solomon is a good way to guide our everyday. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The passage we are looking at today in the King James Version starts with the word therefore. This means that Jesus is tying what he said previously into this next topic as a concluding lesson. I know the stress that I have when I make a withdrawal from my savings it causes me a certain amount of anxiety. I feel as if I am putting the security of my future in jeopardy. Jesus knows that we will have these feelings of anxiety when it comes to not feeling we have the egg money to fall back upon. But the thought is that if we are living in His Kingdom, living in His will, then we should not be overly worried, as God is our provider.

Jesus isn’t saying that we should do nothing to meet our physical needs. We are to keep our needs in a proper perspective and trust God, as He is the faithful and true One who will supply our needs. Worry is a weakening of our faith in Him. The main point is that we are not too be anxious. But fist let us see in what way this lesson is connected to the last. What is the connection between storing up our treasure either for God or mammon and being anxious?

Jesus had just taught us the impossibility of putting both God and the world together. We cannot serve both at the same time. There are no enough hours in our life to fully glorify God with our life if we steal off to the world for a while. It is God our Creator that must be in the center of our everything. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) If God is our Jehovah-Jireh, the one who provides for us, then anxiety is what occurs when we try to serve God and mammon together. As the Lord told us last week, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24 KJV)

Jesus is telling us not to worry about our life, what we will eat or the clothes we will wear. He is getting us to stop and think about what our life is really about and that it is more than food or clothing. Jesus makes His point as He often does by putting the question before us. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” I realize that we strive each day to provide the basic things of life but are we allowing this to be the total consumption of our life? For some in this world this is all that life is, the gathering of possession. The more that they acquire the more they worry about it and the pursuit of gaining more. People now have to rent out warehouses to store their stuff. The problem is that if we allow this to consume us then we will miss benefitting our eternal home. We will miss the true meaning and purpose of our life.

As Jesus so often does He uses His Father’s creation to make His point. Jesus now turns to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Are they not fed and clothed in splendor? There are people who come to Church more conscious of the fashions of the latest clothing on the shelf for them to wear than they are of God in His sanctuary. It is nice to have good clothes, we want to look good, but our hearts should be pointed to God and not how we compare our clothing to our neighbor.

In Jesus’ example of the birds of the air He is pointing us to an understanding of the character of our Heavenly Father. The birds do not farm for their food or store it away for some future time. Yet they are fed each day. Jesus is telling us that it is our Heavenly Father that feeds them. He did not say their Heavenly Father but ours. Jesus is telling us that God has an intimate interest in His creation. God is not off in some distant realm and not attending to the needs of His creation here in this world. Our Heavenly Father is taking direct action in the welfare of His creation around us.

Jesus also points to the flowers of the field, are they not adorned in splendor? Who on Easter Morning attires themselves as beautiful as an Easter Lilly? Jesus said, “Not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.” Our life is gone in short enough time but the flowers of the field are gone in a season, but Our Heavenly Father dresses them in majesty.

The point Jesus is making is clear. Our Father in Heaven is actively providing for His creation and we His people are the crown of His creation. If God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers of the field how much more then will He provide for us His children? The reason for us not to be anxious is that we are not alone, we are not abandoned in this world, and we are under the watchful eye of a loving and active Heavenly Father.

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Turning this point of Jesus around we see the truth of what Jesus is asking. The truth is that we are not able, by are anxiety, to add a moment to our life. We may stress over our physical being, stress over our security here on earth, but it will not add one moment to our life. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

Our anxiety can be controlled by a shift in our priority. If we live our lives controlled by the desires of the flesh, then we will never find satisfaction and be in a constant struggle for more. As followers of Jesus we are to walk in the power of His Holy Spirit. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) When we walk in the power of the Spirit our emotions and the desires of the flesh come under the control of the Spirit.

We establish our priority by knowing what is most important to us in the eternal run, our personal relationship with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. If we are walking in His will, then we are living in His Kingdom and everything will fall into place according to His plan and purpose. This is our life, Jesus living in us and this is our hope the sacrifice that He made for us. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philippians 3:10)

When this priority is set straight then we will reorder our time, energies and thoughts in and for Him for He is our Lord and has set the path ahead of us. It is a life of self-examination to make better use of our time to develop our intimate relationship with God our Father. It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of our thoughts and energies concentrated on material and physical concerns of life. “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 7:8)

We will be better able to see where our time and energy are expended. In this way we can better police our hearts to focus on our dependence of an ever present God to direct our paths each and every day. We will experience our need for the power and righteousness of God to help us organize our lives around spiritual things. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

The result of having our priority shifted to serving God is that He will take care of our physical and material needs, and, most importantly our spiritual needs. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Our walk with the Lord is a daily walk for our lives are ever in need of His guidance. We pray each day the He provide us with our daily bread, both physically and spiritually. We ask each day that He deliver us from evil, as the god of this world seeks to steal, kill, and destroy and we need His protection against such a formidable enemy. With God on our side we need never be anxious, just trust and have faith in His promises. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 23, 2016

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SOTM – True Treasure

SOTM – True Treasure

“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 neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

We have completed our discussion on how we practice our piety or righteousness before others. We have talked of how God is our Heavenly Father and is present and wanting to reward those who come to Him. We have also discussed that our purpose is not the recognition of others, that we do not gain our value from others, that our identity is not found in others, but comes from our relationship with God. If God is not the first and foremost person in our lives, then we are not putting ourselves in a place where we can receive anything from our Heavenly Father. We cannot both seek the affirmation that we long for from those around us and from God. Our first and foremost commandment is, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Another place that we seek affirmation, our value and identity from is our possessions. This is the topic that Jesus addresses next in His Sermon on the Mount. Previously Jesus taught us that we cannot seek our identity and value from others and God at the same time, as this is impossible. He carries that same lesson forward as He teaches about wealth. A person who seeks and serves the treasures of the world is a person who is deeply divided at their core. There are three points that Jesus brings into the passage that we are to explore. The treasures of the earth, the treasures of heaven, and which treasure attracts our heart.

The first thing Jesus tells us in this passage is not store up treasures here on the earth. Were people tend to find and security in a reservoir of wealth whatever that may be. There are two ways to look at having a reserve of wealth. One is stacking and the other is stashing.

The Greek word for treasure means to treasure. This word has the idea of deposit or accumulation of wealth. That which we treasure we have stopped the flow of, we have stacked it. There is an old adage that Says, “The miser says coins are flat that they may rest in stacks; the spendthrift says they are round that they may roll.” We are looking at the miser here who stacks his treasure rather that lets it roll or flow in the economy. When the treasure is stacked it is not being used. If we stack our wealth then it is not in use and has no purpose other than our own admiration. Jesus had some words for one who would stack their wealth in the parable of the talents. “And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.” (Matthew 25:25-27)

Stashing is just what it sounds like. Another word would be hording our wealth. It is wealth that we just pile up. It is what we have beyond our necessities. It is not being used for our livelihood, our family, the poor, the Lord, wealth set aside for the future, or wealth we have invested in order to be good stewards. It serves no purpose other than to be admired by our self and is beyond that which we need or could possibly use.

Is Jesus telling us to do what He told the rich young ruler? “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21) The Lord never condemned us for having possessions. The rich young ruler had let his possessions come between Him and his service to the Lord. God gives us things, possessions, so we do not have to live a life in complete poverty. Our God is a God of provision and wants to provide for us if we would have the little faith to believe His promises. “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17)

The wise King Solomon wrote many proverbs to instruct us how to gain and maintain our wealth. (Proverbs 6:6a, 8; Proverbs 14:23; Proverbs 2l:20; Proverbs 22:7b; Proverbs 24:3-4; Proverbs 28:19) Storing up treasure on earth is not a prohibition against possessing and enjoying our possessions. It is by our acceptance in thanksgiving that we receive these abundant gifts from God our provider.

Jesus is not telling us that we cannot have wealth or possession. Jesus is concerned about what is going on in our heart. It is not what we have but our attitude towards what we have. It is our good stewardship to provide for our family, it is prudent to plan for the future, we should make wise investments, it is our duty to care for the poor, and we should have enough wealth to support His Church. But if we are greedy or covetous then we have fallen into sinful behavior. It is the motives of our heart that the Lord is judging. All that we do and all that we have are to be used for the glory of God and His Kingdom.

There are proper investments that we should be making. And we should because we will be held accountable for our time, talent, and treasure. I was amazed to learn that John Wesley was a rather wealthy man. He was a great man of the faith and devoted his time to the Word of God. At one time in his life he gave away 59,000.00 dollars to a person in need. Yet when he died his estate was worth 28.00 dollars. John Wesley did store up his treasure on earth but invested it in the Kingdom of God.

The question is not what we have but how we use what we have. Do we use our wealth for our self or do we return it to the gracious God who gave it to us. I head a cool saying once that said “there is no smaller package than one wrapped up in himself.” If we covet our wealth then we have also committed idolatry. “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

Greed and covetousness is a very unprincipled life style. If we are providing for our families, for the needy, for our parents and for the Kingdom of God, then the rewards that the grace of God grants us here are His blessing. But if we are stacking and stashing for on own lust of wealth then we have forsaken our principles. “Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)

I admit that parting with wealth can and too often is a hard thing for me to face. It should not be that way as the Lord loves a cheerful giver and that is what we all should be. But it is not really the parting of what I have but the motivation behind it. It is God’s wisdom that drives it. Do I love God? Do I believe in His Kingdom? It supports me and how foolish I am to not cheerfully support it. We are told to self-examine our self, and I do. I remember the old American Cancer Society catch line, “Checkup and a Check.” I checkup and them I joyfully pass along the gifts that God has given me by His grace. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 16, 2016

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“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

We are now concluding are discussion in the three practices to our piety. We defined piety as the way in that we practice our faith in Jesus Christ. We have discussed giving, prayer, and not we look at the third practice, fasting.

Jesus began His discussion in verses one of this chapter. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Our Lord is making an important point to us as He gives three examples giving, prayer, and fasting to illustrate this truth. Jesus warns His listeners to not be as the hypocrites who practice their piety in such a way that they would been seen by men. Jesus teaches that we are to do so in a way that only our Father in Heaven would see what we are doing. We are told that the Father is the One who sees in secret and that it is the Father who will reward us. The repetition of these three illustrations is a method that good teachers use to drive the meaning of an important point to their listeners.

Jesus is making two important points to us in His teaching about the way we practice our righteousness. First it is foolish for us to try to receive the affirmation of our identity from others. We each have been uniquely made in the image of our Father in Heaven. Secondly Jesus wants us to learn the character of our Heavenly Father that He loves us and gives His full attention to what we are doing that we would draw near to Him to receive our reward.

When we give to the poor, pray, and fast, these are actions of expression of our piety and are important because they all show our relationship with God. We share with the poor who are in need because God by His grace towards us gives us His blessings that we may share with others. We give because we have received from Him. If we are faithful with what He has given unto us, then He will give us more for the work of His Kingdom. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10)

It is easier for us to see our connection with God through our prayer life with Him. Praying is how we communicate with Him and how He communicates with us. In the Scriptures there are several purposes revealed for fasting. Fasting is a way to discipline ourselves to better gain self-control over our flesh. Fasting is a way that we show our dependence upon God for our strength and resources. Fasting is also a way that we can focus completely upon God when seeking His guidance and help and that we are earnest in our quest. Fasting is an expression of our sorrow and our deep need for repentance and to acknowledge our failure before God and seek His mercy.

We think of fasting as going without food for our bodies. But fasting is denying the flesh of its worldly desires. It is giving up something that is taking our focus off God. We may give up going to an event, our favorite television show, or hanging out with our friends in order to spend time with our God and best friend. Fasting is setting aside what the flesh wants to spend spiritual time with our Heavenly Father who is a Spirit.

In the Jewish calendar there are seven days that the Jewish people are too fast. Fasting today has become more associated with special times that the Church wants to focus completely with God.

Fasting, as giving and prayer, over time had become done in such a way that the participants were noticed by others. These were the ones that Jesus called hypocrites as they made sure that others knew of the way that practiced their piety. They announced their giving, they prayed loudly in public, and fasted in such a way that it would be obvious to others. This is what Jesus was warning His listeners not to do. They were practicing their piety in such a way that it brought glory unto themselves. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told is that we are to let our light shine in such a way to bring glory to the Father. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

When we practice our piety in such a way that it brings glory unto ourselves that is the reward they we will get, the recognition of men. What is the lasting value of the recognition of others? Others are not able to tell us who we really are. They may give us a moment in time where we feel valuable and give us a sense of importance but it will only leave us looking for more. Others can never really know us, as we cannot really see ourselves clearly most of the time. Does that kind of recognition have any eternal value to us?

This is all we would receive from men and we would receive nothing from God in our efforts. As Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” It is not an evil thing to want to belong in the society that we live in. We were created to live in community and thus have a need to belong. We desire to be loved and cherished by others, as we desire to love and cherish them. That longing placed in us to belong has a proper direction. It is to draw us to God who is the only One who can satisfy that longing completely. C. S. Lewis described this longing that we have for our God in this way. “Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.” (“The Weight of Glory”)

The last point of Jesus in these three practices of our piety is that God is the rewarder. It is the character of God to reward those who come to Him. The only audience that we have in this world that is waiting for us in the next is God. The Westminster Confession states that the chief end of man is to glorify God. This is truly the only eternally profitable thing that we can do here in this world. Our Heavenly Father has a waiting heart to see us and to hear from us and is wanting to reward us. He is the answer to that longing that He has created us with to come home to Him. “To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:4)

There is a trap that many Christians fall into. We have a tendency to get so fired up in our faith that we burn out. In Church there are many ways that we may serve. There is never enough people willing to serve in the Church and many find that they are involved in multiple tasks. They may be on several committees, teach Sunday school, visiting neighbors, involved in grounds maintenance, sing in the choir, become ushers, or work in the nursery. This is all needful and good stuff. The ministry of the Church must be done, as “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37) Sometimes all this service becomes the essence of the Christian life. What we do becomes our identity in the Church family and it becomes based upon our performance. We miss the point that our identity is found in our God and not in the people who are around us. We lose touch with our sense of a living God and our personal relationship with Him. We come to a place of feeling burned out and discouraged. This was the exact problem that Jesus addressed with the Church of Ephesus in Revelation. “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4)

Perhaps we have stopped coming near to God in our secret place where only He sees us. Maybe we need to return there and bathe in His presence and receive His delight in us. To be there in His rest and gain His directions. Our time in His presence is far more important than the service that we perform. It is a personal relationship that God desires most from us not our works of service. It is in His presence that we receive His loving word, His guidance and direction, and it is in His presence that we experience His unconditional love. It is God our Father that knows not only who we are but who we can be in Him. It is important to have the knowledge of God and it is important o serve Him but it is not a substitute for feeding on Him every day. Our God wants us to meet with Him, talk and listen to Him, sees us and wants us to see Him, and our God wants to reward us His Children. Let us not live with anything less than being in the presence of our Heavenly Father. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 9, 2016

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SOTM-Lord’s Prayer

SOTM-Lord’s Prayer

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is 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 do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:9-15)

We have been looking at the three ways that we can practice our piety before men for the glory of our Lord. The three practices are our giving, our prayer life in communion with God the Father through Jesus, and our fasting or denying the flesh. Last week we looked at prayer and learned that it is not to be a display before men as it is a conversation between us and our God. When we pray it is an intimate communion between us and our Creator. We will continue this week by looking at the model of prayer that Jesus gave us. This section of Scripture has been called by many names, the Lord’s Prayer, the disciple’s prayer, and others. The Lord gave us not a prayer to recite each time we pray but a model of the way we should pray. In this model given to us by Jesus we find all the elements of a true prayer. The three elements are adoration, petition, and intercession.

Our communion with God is to be approached in adoration which is an expression of our love and worship for our God who has given and sacrificed so much for our redemption. It is not just a morning prayer or evening prayer, a prayer for the provision that He has granted unto us by His grace, it is a continuous conversation throughout our day and life. Much as we have with our spouse or friends in life. As the Apostle Paul tell us, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We should enter into His courts in prayer with praise and thanksgiving. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4) We should praise God for what He is our Creator and for what He has done for our lives. We can praise Him anytime and all the time as we go about the day that He has given us. As we eat our meals, drive our cars, and perform our duties we can be in communion with God.

Before we can give to others in need we have to receive from God ourselves. God is our provider and we petition Him for our needs. It is true that God knows our needs, “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8) God wants us to bring our needs to Him that He may receive the glory. People should not refuse to ask God for the things that they need, that would be foolish. We cannot express our desire unless we ask Him.

Intercession in our prayers for others allows us to touch people in ways that we could not do on our own. When we pray to God on behalf of another we are releasing His power to enrich their lives far greater than we ourselves could ever imagine. We usually pray for our loved ones and then move to people that are further from us. Through our prayers of intercession we can touch the world for God’s glory. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)

We begin our prayer by addressing God as our Father. This is an absolute truth as He is our Father in Heaven and He created us in His image. We can come to Him as His children who belong to Him and are loved by Him. We first request that His name be hallowed meaning that He is holy and a part from His creation. There is nothing else like Him as He is the one God. “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:5-6) When we make this request we are asking that God’s name receive the recognition and glory that it surely deserves before men. We want His name and His character to shine forth that all the nations of the world will know Him.

Our next request is that His Kingdom come and that His will be done here as it is in Heaven. The Kingdom of God is where His will is being done. His Kingdom is where His purposes are being accomplished for Him subjects. We are asking through our prayer that our Heavenly Father be known and that His good will be obeyed by more and more people. This is our prayer because this is what we deeply need. We want His goodness and His ways to be established in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. The more people who see His truth in our lives by our action and word the more people may be drawn to Him. This is how we can have a more peaceful world, people who have a like mindedness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

Our first petition is for our physical need of our daily bread. We can ask in confidence from our Father because He knows us and what are needs are. It is a daily asking because our walk with Him is a daily walk and we are expressing our dependence upon Him for our daily lives. But we must remember that Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone. “But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) We are also asking for our spiritual food as we study His word. We are asking that as we study He will open up the scriptures to us as He did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35)

The petition is for our greatest spiritual need, that of forgiveness. God clearly told Adam in the Garden of Eden that if He did not obey God’s Word that the result would be death. And when Adam and Eve fell to the temptation of Satan and ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil sin entered into the world and as a result death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Jesus paid the cost of our sin on the cross and through Him God can forgive us. Without His forgiveness we face spiritual death, separation from God. If we confess our sins and repent, then God is faithful to forgive us and remove our transgression as far as the east is from the west and will remember them no more. (Psalm 103:12) When we have faith in His promise, then we know that He will answer our request. “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (1 John 5:15)

For God to forgive us we must be willing to forgive. Earlier in the Beatitudes we read, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) When we have been wronged by another to withhold our forgiveness is another way of giving up on that person. How many times have you asked God for forgiveness? Has He given up on you? We don’t know the end game but God does. We cannot close that opportunity for a life to find the saving grace of God. Peter asked how many times should we forgive and the answer is always. “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22) If God is faithful to always forgive us, then we striving to be in His character should always be willing to forgive.

The next petition also concerns a spiritual need that we have. Our Father in Heaven knows that we are involved in a great spiritual battle with evil forces in heavenly places. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) He knows that we need to be protected as we are not able to handle the daily bombardment of temptations that the evil forces of Satan will place into our path. We are not only asking for forgiveness for what we have done or failed to do but we are asking Him to help us to live in a world that is always trying to pull us off our center in His will. It is natural for us to think that we can handle these temptations but the truth is that the forces against us are much stronger than we.

Asking God to not lead us into temptation in no way means that God tempts us to do evil things. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13) God will use temptations to show us that our strength is in Him. When these trials come God has provided a way out for us if we would persevere and have faith in His Word. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Trials are necessary in our walk to strengthen our spiritual walk of faith. Perseverance is key to building a Christian character. Our faith is like a muscle that grows ever stronger as we persevere through the trails that our adversary places in our path. This is needed for the growth and maturity that we are to obtain in our walk with Jesus. “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Jesus does not ask that we not be tested. Our request is that God would overrule when we try to take on a spiritual battle that we are not ready to fight. We must be careful that our petitions to God are not selfishly motivated. We must check our motivations and observe with understanding why God grants some request and denies others. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) If we want to be spiritually strong and have spiritual power to overcome the wiles of Satan then an intimate prayer life with our Heavenly Father is the source of our strength.

An intimate prayer life with our Heavenly Father will strengthen our witness of a godly life, will be reflected in the words we speak, and will fortify our service to God. The most selfless prayer we can offer to our Father in Heaven is that of intercession for our brothers and sisters in the faith. “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 2, 2016

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“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But 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. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)

Last week we defined Piety as the way we personally practiced our faith in God through Jesus Christ. We learned that it is God’s will that we care for the less fortunate. Our giving is part of His plan to provide for those who are in need. Giving is a part of the three ways that we practice our faith and this week we are looking at the second, prayer. Giving, prayer, and fasting are similar in our practice in the motivation that we have to give, pray, and fast. Is our motivation to be seen and rewarded by the recognition of men or to honor God and receive His reward?

Praying that one might be recognized by men is a twist of the truth of prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God, a privet, personal, and intimate conversation between man and his Creator. It is the way in which we make our confessions to God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Prayer is a time that we praise and thank God for His abundance of that He has poured out upon us. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) God knows our needs but like a loving Father He desires us to make known unto Him our needs and the needs of others. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3) And Prayer is a time to intercede on behalf of the sick whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual. “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15) We as children of God are commanded to pray. God is our friend and He desires to hear from us. “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

To approach God we must come in truth. We cannot lie before God as He is all knowing. It would make no sense for us to lie before God and it is that same as when one lies to us, it closes the conversation. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Therefore, we cannot come to Him with wicked intentions in our heart. It is important then for us to learn as best we can the heart of God as David did. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not heart.” (Psalm 66:18)

We cannot approach God unless we have a faith in His Son Jesus. Jesus is the only way than man can come into the presence of God for He is our High Priest. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16) It is through Jesus that we are empowered to live the righteous life and do the good works of the Kingdom and apart from Him we can do nothing. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

As before said it is important to know the heart of God that we should know His will for us. We are called to keep His commandments and to let Him live through us. We should approach Him in confidence to seek His help and guidance in accomplishing His will in our lives. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

No matter if life is going great for us or has turned to the worse prayer to our Heavenly Father is our refuge. We must never forget that our adversary prowls around to seek, kill, and destroy and he will breach our wall at its weakest point. I read in Billy Graham’s book “Just As I Am” that before he would take the stage to deliver his message he would spend hours in prayer that God would prepare him for the battle of winning souls for Jesus. John Bunyan said this of prayer, “Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.” In this world under the rule of the Prince of the Air we need a continuous flow of God’s mercy. Arthur Hopkins wrote this. “Our prayer and God’s mercy are like two buckets in a well; while one ascends, the other descends.”

When we pray we are entering into the courts of the almighty God the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We are seeking His grace to pour out upon our lives. Therefore we should praise Him and be thankful for all that He has done for us. It is only proper that we enter into His courts with praise. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4)

The problem that Jesus had with the ones He called hypocrites is that their prayer life was not to talk to God but was just for show before men. They lifted themselves by seeking the praise of men in reference to how well they prayed. It is the same mentality that I had when I was in grade school. I hung with the biggest and most popular that others would think that I was somebody because I was a part of the “in crowd.” With these hypocrites the main purpose of their prayers was not to communicate with God but to impresses those who were around them. It was all for being admired by men. They had put God into a box that they could gauge His reaction by the standard of the people around them. They thought if people were impressed with their prayers then certainly God would be also.

By our creation we are desiring to be heard and accepted by others. It is woven into our character to be a part of the society that we are living in. This in itself is not a bad thing as this is the nature that we were created to be. God Himself created community, He created family, society, and nations. He expects us to relate to each other. The sin is found in the motivation for our action. Our prayer life is not between people but to be between us and God. Our motivation is to be heard by God and then to listen to His answer in our spirit, not that of public opinion.

It is not our longing for fellowship and recognition that Jesus is condemning but the hypocrisy that wrong motivations can cause. A hypocrite is someone who is divided between their outside actions and their inner convictions. They claim to be one way but in truth they are completely of a different way inside. They were claiming to be praying to God but in truth they were playing to the crowd for their own glory. If they were trying to teach, then they should not have been praying that people could hear them but imploring the people to pray for themselves. They just wanted to appear pious and therefore gain the respect of the people.

If this was the reward that they desired, then Jesus tells His disciple that this is the reward that they have received. Their desire was for the awe of men and so they had received it in full. If their prayers was a show for the crowd, then they received what they could from the crowd. God does not receive prayers that are not directed to Him, as we are to pray in the spirit of truth.

The purpose of Jesus is to teach the people to pray. He spoke of the hypocrites in a condemning way to let the people know that they are not being heard because they seemed more pious than they.

To motivate His disciples to pray Jesus tells them that they are to pray to the Father in a secret place away from the rest of the world. If we dedicate our self to a special place to pray to the Father, Jesus tells us that the Father dedicates Himself to our special place to listen and talk with us. God is paying attention to us. We do not need to be out in the public places and shouting from the roof tops. God is already paying attention to us in public and privet and can hear our thoughts and feel our aches.

God is our heavenly Father and He knows us better than we. He understands us as He created us before the foundations of creation. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love.” (Ephesians 1:4) God is ready to satisfy those longings we have for intimate love as we pour out our hearts unto Him.

We live in a world today that is starved for attention from others. We all go off to make our mark upon society. We have a sense of pressure to be validated by the approval of others. We all want to be important and not be insignificant in the world we live it. I see people do all kinds of crazy things to get the attention of outers, just to make an impression even if it is a bad one, we want to be heard even when wisdom cries for silence. This attention is already available to us in a special and loving way that none can provide to us. Not every relationship can be intimate. Not every relationship can be in absolute truth. Not every relationship is always available anywhere. We don’t have to do anything religious or impressive to experience that kind of relationship. All we have to do is go to our secret place and God the Father will meet us there. He is there to watch and listen to His children and to pour His loving Spirit upon us a give us divine attention. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14).

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 25, 2016

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SOTM-Giving to the Poor

SOTM-Giving to the Poor

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

As we have been studying are way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we have completed chapter five of the Gospel of Matthew. The underlying truth of what Jesus is teaching His disciples is the nature of righteousness. The Beatitudes gave us an understanding of who is blessed. The person that is blessed is the one who knows his need for the righteousness of God. We see that a blessed person is the one who is willing to receive God into his life and allow Him to live through them, willing to let God show that person who they really are. Our spiritual poverty becomes real to us when we realize that everything in God’s creation cannot bring us eternal life. Eternal life is when we dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

Jesus used the example of the scribes and Pharisees to make a very strong point. They were the religious elite of the day and the people looked up to their piety and strict adherence to the law. Jesus taught that righteousness of the one who would enter into the Kingdom must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. The only way to receive perfect righteousness is to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. God’s will for us to do righteous things is deeper in that we are to be righteous from the inside to the out. Many a righteous living soul desires to see all of God’s creation set right and God intends to bring that into reality. This was God’s will to do through His Son Jesus who will take the fallen of humanity and provide a way to fulfill the will of His Father God to make all things right. Through our spiritual poverty and our longing for righteousness Jesus will share His righteousness which we partially have now and will at that great day become totally transformed by the power of the Spirit into a complete Christ likeness.

Throughout chapter five we were given examples by our Lord of the righteousness that is needed which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. While here in this world we are growing in a righteous relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus. As a result this righteous relationship with our heavenly Father spills over into our relationships with other people. God loves us while we are yet sinners and we learn to love others regardless of how they may treat us. Jesus finishes the first section by teaching us that God’s will is that we become perfect. That God will not be satisfied until we are made whole and complete in Him. That God will love us into that perfection.

In Chapter 6 Jesus focuses on our relationship with the Father. Jesus talks about our Piety. Piety is that way we personally practice our faith. There are three classifications to our religious acts, giving, prayer, and fasting or denying self.

The government of that day offered minute assistance to the poor and needy. It was the practice of the Jews to fill the void and help those who were less fortunate. As Christians we are to provide assistance to the needy as we read, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:37-40) Jesus was teaching that we are not to put on a public display of our help to the poor that we may receive recognition and glory from others.

The problem that Jesus was identifying was our motive. Why would we give to the less fortunate then ourselves? People do not like to give if there is no positive return for their actions. If they give now they want to see an affirming response to that action now. Such was the people of the day in that they gave openly in public so others could see their good works. Their motive was for self-recognition.

Jesus does not teach that seeking recognition is a bad thing that they should work to rid themselves of. The point that Jesus is making is that they are seeking recognition and reward from the wrong place. The motivation that Jesus gives us for privet giving is in these words, “Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” It is not that a reward for our giving is wrong but that we should seek our reward from the One who can truly reward us.

God is all knowing and He knows what His people are doing as well as the unrighteous. God is not an absent deity or a distant Heavenly Father, God is close to His Children and He cares about all that we do. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)

Is God really interested in rewarding us for the good work we do? Sometimes it may seem that God is not. We go about giving to others and find that we are no better off for it. But are we really aware of the blessings of the day? Each one of us are blessed each day in ways that we are not fully aware of. Others want God to operate in their time when it would be better if they would be patient and wait upon the Lord to act. We should not trade our birthright as Esau for a bowl of soup. “That there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” (Hebrews 12:16) God gives His blessing upon us in His time, which is the perfect time for us to receive it.

The essential motivation that Jesus was teaching is faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) There is nothing that is lost to God. He sees every act from the smallest to the greatest that people do. Jesus is telling us that even as we give to others we are giving to God the Father.

Another thing to look at is that God sees in secret. Could this mean that when we give in public for the recognition of men that God does not see it? Perhaps, when our giving is to draw attention unto ourselves then our only reward is that which those who recognize us give. That would be a small pittance to the riches of His glory. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:38)

Only God our Father can respond to our giving in an appropriate way to our actions. If our giving is viewed by God as giving unto Him, then we are participating in God’s giving to His creation. The Jews gave to the less fortunate because it was the command of God. “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19) God has a greater concern for the poor, a desire that we as His children should share in. As His children we are receivers of His all sufficient grace and through Him we are given a purpose for our life. As we give we are fulfilling His provision to others and we are expressing our faith that God will provide for our needs.

If we grab ahold of this truth, then we have freedom to give freely and joyfully. We do not have a concern for who might see our good deeds because we know that God knows and will reward our actions. God is the audience that we can always play for and be appreciated by.

God is not distant and slow to pay attention to us. He is present, near, and ready to recognize and encourage any tiny step in His direction. With a heavenly Father like this, we are free to enjoy giving to others with a freedom and an abandon, because we know our Father receives it all and gives us the response we so long for. He is willing to have our actions count and be worthy of reward from Him. I have to wonder when I see this why I ever settle for something so much less. On that glorious day we shall all be at the Judgment Seat of Christ where we will justly rewarded us for all that we have done. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 20, 2016

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