‘Do To Others…” (Matthew 7:1-12)

Sunday 29/11/2020

For a long time, the most quoted verse in the Bible was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

But in recent years, it’s been overtaken by the opening verse of Matthew 7: “‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Instead of talking about how God loved us when we were lost in rebellion and sin, people would rather talk about how we treat one another. Now, we should always be telling the good news of salvation and life in Jesus. But often we overlook the difference being God’s people should make to how we live.

‘Oh, but we’re saved by faith, not by works!’ Absolutely! But having been saved by faith, do we live by faith? Do our lives show that we believe God’s promises? Do we live like God’s Word for us is best?

Christian, do you live like the Gospel changes your eternity, but not your present? Or maybe we forget that not everyone is heading to heaven like we are (v6)? At the heart of it is a failure to see God’s goodness, especially in the ways He changes us. Do we really believe that God gives good gifts (v11), including the people around us?

It’s so easy to live like God’s Kingdom is for the life to come, but not for now. That becoming like Jesus will happen in eternity, but is pretty hopeless for now.

But is that how Jesus sees it? Does Jesus believe we’ll just muddle along in life like everyone else until He calls us home? No. Jesus challenges our thinking about our relationships. He calls us not to live like we naturally would. Jesus says the way we treat others must be different because belong to His Kingdom.

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How to Worry (Matthew 6:19-34)

Sunday 22/11/2020

Are you good at worrying? Do you get much practice?

At first, it seems easy. Instead of thinking about what you should be thinking about, you focus on one thing. You ask yourself questions you don’t know the answer too, like ‘What if this happens?’ Then you guess what will happen, and guarantee yourself that that’s the only way things will turn out. Then, repeat that process until you collapse.

But, have you noticed that no matter how much you worry, it’s never enough? There’s always more worrying you can do!

And worse than that, worrying doesn’t work. No matter how much we worry, it doesn’t change what happens at all. Maybe we’re not doing it right?

Worrying can appear as anxiety, a paralysing fear. But worry can also show up as ambition: the preoccupation with satisfaction and security.

When Jesus diagnoses our worry, He says the cause is a divided loyalty: We seek earthly things, instead of heavenly things; we welcome darkness instead of light; we try to serve money as well as God. Worry is focusing on our bodies, doubting God, and forgetting His Kingdom. It’s the opposite of what Jesus has just said in Matthew 6:1-18 about generosity, prayer and fasting; it’s greed, materialism, and anxiety. That’s the opposite of how we should live if we are seeking His kingdom (v10, 33).

So, let’s see how to worry. I’ve got 6 tips:

  1. Value What’s Temporary (v19-21)
  2. Let Darkness In (v22-23)
  3. Serve Greed Too (v24)
  4. Underestimate Your Value (v25-27)
  5. Disbelieve God (v28-30)
  6. Forget the Kingdom (v31-34)

(Of course, that’s what Jesus is teaching us to avoid, so we’ll see why each of them is not what we should do).

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‘Pray Like This…’ (Matthew 6:5-15)

Sunday 15/11/2020

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most famous parts, not only of the Sermon on the Mount, but of all of Jesus’ teaching. It’s so well-known that linguists use it to study differences between languages. But the Lord’s Prayer should be of more than theoretical interest to us.

How we pray says a lot about us and about who we’re praying too.

Have you ever had the impression that someone was praying to make you think well of them? Do you ever do that?

Maybe it’s speaking differently to how they normally speak. Or using lots of fancy words. That says that we actually think the people listening to us pray are more important than the God we’re praying to.

Or can you think of prayers that are working really hard to convince God to answer? They’re full of descriptions of the problems that need to be fixed, or reasons why God should answer in a certainly way. It’s like we think God is stingy, that He doesn’t want to answer and normally wouldn’t. But if we say the right things, He just might.

Or maybe we pray like God is uncaring. Like His plan, His commands, actually aren’t that good for us. What really needs to happen is for God to be convinced to do things our way.

All of those problems with prayer come from our misunderstandings, not just about prayer, but about God Himself. Prayer isn’t a way to impression people, to manipulate God or to get what we want. It’s the expression of our relationship with God. So it shouldn’t come from empty religiosity or habit, but from a personal knowledge of God: the God who listens and who cares.

So, where do we start? Jesus says that faithful praying starts by knowing who God is (v5-9). That’ll change our priorities in prayer (v9-10) but also put our real needs into perspective (v11-15).

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Perfect Decoys (Matthew 6:1-18)

Sunday 08/11/2020

Operation Bodyguard was a part of the Allies’ plans to invade Nazi-occupied Europe on D-Day in 1944. Operation Neptune was the overall plan for D-Day, but Operation Bodyguard was a deception plan. It was intended to mislead the German military leadership over the time and place of the invasion.

From December 1943 to March 1944, while German forces were stretched along the European coast expecting an Allied attack, British and American forces deployed decoy boats and aircraft, inflatable tanks, and dummy parachuters to deceive their enemy. The plan worked. When D-Day came, the Germans were taken by surprise and their scramble to redeploy troops allowed the Allies victory.

At the end of Matthew 5, Jesus concludes the first section of the Sermon on the Mount by saying “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v48). If we are His followers, our character is not measured against the people around us. The standard Jesus gives us is God Himself, who is perfection itself.

We might see others around us and conclude that we’re not so bad. But when we’re compared to God, all but the least self-aware would realise that we cannot be perfect.

But we might be pretty good at fooling others. Like Operation Bodyguard, we can deploy dummy compassion, cardboard prayers, and bogus devotion. It’s decoy perfection. And people might fall for it. Or, even if people do see through it, at least they won’t call our bluff.

And Jesus warns us that this decoy perfection doesn’t work. Instead of receiving the reward our Heavenly Father gives, we’re left with an empty shell: human approval, which is here today and gone tomorrow.

So, what can we do? Jesus takes off our masks. He exposes our decoy perfection, our hypocrisy. But He doesn’t tell us not to worry about giving, or praying, or fasting. And He calls us to act out genuine devotion from a heart that knows the living God.

  1. Take Off The Mask (v1)
  2. Hide Your Giving From Yourself (v2-4)
  3. Pray Simply In Secret (v5-15)
  4. Fast So No One Knows (v16-18)

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The Perfect Life (Matthew 5:33-48)

Sunday 01/11/2020

If you asked 100 people what a perfect life looked like, what answers would you expect? And if you asked the same people how they could get a perfect life, what would they say? Will a perfect life just come to us? Will working hard get us there? Or do we have to take it?

Some might think that fate or karma will bring them good. And more might believe that determination will get you where you want to be, that “if you have a go, you will get a go.” But if we look carefully at how our world works, we’ll see that good ideas are overlooked and hard work isn’t rewarded. So, it seems that we won’t get ahead unless we push ourselves forward.

Instead of thinking of others, we find ourselves asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’

Instead of choosing what’s best for everyone, we say, ‘What do I deserve?’

And instead of asking, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’, we think, ‘What can I get away with?’

When we think and act like that, we’re saying that the only way to get ahead is to trample over others. And what do we find when we get there? It’s lonely at the top. That idea of the perfect life is all around us. But it doesn’t add up.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what a perfect life is like: It’s living as citizens of His Kingdom (v1-12). It starts when we realise that we’re spiritually poor (v3), that we can never provide the right relationship with God that we desperately need (v6). And Jesus promises that, if that’s us, then the Kingdom of Heaven is ours and His righteousness will satisfy every spiritual need we have.

So, how does Jesus challenge those attitudes we see around us and find within us? Asking ‘What’s in it for me?’, ‘What do I deserve?’ and ‘What can I get away with?’ Jesus answers those attitudes by showing us the perfection of God’s Law, then by embodying that perfection Himself, and giving His perfection to His followers.

  1. Echo Jesus’ Perfect Honesty (v33-37)
  2. Practice Jesus’ Perfect Submission (v38-42)
  3. Cultivate Jesus’ Perfect Love (v43-48)

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