Sermon by Pastor Gene
APPROVED OR APPLAUDED
Matthew 6:1-8, v-1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your father which is in heaven. v-2 Therefore when ye doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hipocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you. They have their reward. v-3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. v-4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. v-5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hyprocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you. They have their reward. v-6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. v-7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. v-8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Goodmorning everyone, welcome to Strait Gate church. If this is your first time here, we welcome you.
In our culture we grow up watching those in the public eye receive applause and adulation. We come to admire the people who command the public eye. We call them "stars". They are the people with money, fame, position, power and recognition. They are held up by the media as larger than life, people to be envied. The fact that a television show, like Lives of the Rich and Famous, is so successful should be a testimony to all of us of how we have become so very fascinated by those who receive the applause of others. And, of course, the reason we are fascinated by this is that we would very much like to have that applause ourselves. For some reason we feel that it would be great if we were like these rich and powerful people.
There is a little characteristic that we all inherited because of the disobedience of our forefather, Adam. It is called pride. In our pride we are seduced into thinking that the applause of others makes us special and valuable people. We believe that our self-worth is enhanced when people adore us. We think that we would feel better about ourselves if only we were there. Could we handle it? Would it really be good for us, or would it destroy us? Would we be more useful for God if we were famous? Does God only use the powerful, beautiful poeple? The question we need to ask ourselves is: "Do I want the APPROVAL of God OR the APPLAUSE of others?"
Seldom can you have both. Those who stand for Jesus Christ will face opposition in this world. The scripture we have read from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus deals with this tendency in all of us to want the applause of others. In doing so, He reveals it to be a destructive force. It is destructive to our spiritual life and to our future reward. He touches on three disciplines for every Christian life - helping others, touching God, and dealing with self. As He exposes the possible motivation for each of these spiritual activities, perhaps we can find ourselves in His words.
Jesus deals first with the subject of giving alms. This is a specific kind of giving. Alms referred to giving to the poor and needy. This was a practice that was expected of every person seeking to do the will of God. That is why Jesus spoke of when "not if you give alms". Everyone was expected to give alms. Everyone was expected to reach out beyond themselves and help those who needed their help. And Jesus affirmed the principle of giving alms. What He warned them of was how they were to give alms. He said do not sound a trumpet before you as you give to the poor. This is what the hypocrites do when they engage in giving. He went on to say that the reason why they called attention to their giving was that they may be honored by men. And He indicated that this honor or applause of men was going to be their reward in full.
In other words my friends, we can either have the approval of God or the applause of others. If we choose the applause of others, then that applause becomes our reward. We have forfeited any future and eternal reward by accepting a reward here and now.
Jesus goes on to say that when we give we should do it in secret. He indicates that your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing. In other words, we should never give in order to be seen by others. If we give with our right hand, then people as close as our left hand should not know what we are doing. Then your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
Our reward will come from God. When helping others, we should always seek to move from a motivation of doing God's will. We should never help people from the motivation of what we can do for them and get out of it now. We should never call attention to ourselves in doing good so that others can praise our acts of kindness.
The next area is the area of prayer. Again, He talks about when you pray,( not if you pray, ) but when you pray. Obviously, prayer is something to be engaged in by every believer. And, like giving, prayer can be offered with a pure motive and also can be offered with a mixed motive. Jesus again speaks of the hypocrites who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. The motivation again is public recognition, public applause. These people pick a prominent spot so that many people can hear them pray
People probably stand amazed at their skillful use of words. "Did you hear that wonderful prayer," they may say. "Wow, I certainly wish I could pray like that!" The praise of men is what they are after in praying. And the praise of men is what they get. The only problem, Jesus indicates, is that this praise is their reward in full. Our prayers, however, are to be done in secret. You should inter your inter-room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your father. After all, we really should be praying to God, not people. And God sees in secret what we pray. He will repay you openly.
Jesus goes on to warn us not to use meaningless repetition when we pray. In other words, we are not to use flowery words for the sake of making our prayers beautiful. This was the motivation of those who sought to be heard for their many words. You have probably heard many such prayers offered. These are prayers which are filled with phrases that sound good on the surface but mean nothing to the one praying. Jesus tells us to cut to the chase. He says that your father knows what you need, before you ask Him. If that is true, and it is, then you can use plain language to speak to God.
As a matter of fact, Peter prayed a very effective prayer from the heart as he was sinking in the sea after walking on the water toward Jesus. He said as quickly as he could, "HELP!" A very effective prayer indeed. Dealing With Self
Finally, Jesus deals with the discipline of dealing with self. The issue is fasting. Fasting was something that dealt with denying self in order to be more surrendered to God. Again, Jesus assumed that this would be a discipline practiced by everyone. Of course, it can be applied to any self-discipline in the believer's life. The problem, as in the other cases, was the motive of the heart. Those who wanted to be seen fasting by men would put on a gloomy face. They wanted everyone to know that they were denying self. This was, after all, a very good thing to do. It was spiritual. It marked them as spiritual people. Other people saw that they were spiritual. Again, Jesus says that they have their reward in full. His counsel to us is that we should not look so down when we are denying self. He counseled those listening to anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men. In other words, they were to do everything to look normal. Their fasting was to be seen by God. Their reward was to be from God. Even the spiritual discipline of self-denial can be turned into a self-gratifying experience when we do it for the sake of being noticed by others.
The choice is again between the approval of God and the applause of others.
Jesus wanted us to understand the real issue involved in spiritual activity. Whether that activity is directed to others, to God, or to ourselves, it must be done for the sake of our Lord. Even a spiritual thing can become a prideful trap for us if we do it to receive the applause of people.
Why do we do what we do? Why do we serve in the church? Why do we teach Sunday School? Why do we lead a cell group? Why do we preach? Why do we help others? Why do we pray? Why do we deny self? We can do all those things from an impure motive. They can all be born of pride and carnal self-interest. We can make sure we leave the evidence of our good works lying around for people to find. But if we do, we have our reward paid in full here and now.
I hope you feel the same as I do. I do not want the limited reward that people can give. I want what God can do for me. You see my friends, when we depend on people, we get what people can do - which is something. But when we depend upon God, we get what God can do - which is everything. The choice is ours. Do we want the applause of others or the approval of God?
Today I am going to let you close this sermon with your own prayer, what you feel in your own heart between you and God. God bless you all.
You know nothing, until you've known the love of God