GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 26)

The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus.  Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament.  The greatest sequel to this instruction is that Jesus, in all he was and was to do, came not to set aside or annule the Law but to fulfill it.  In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…”It is said, but I say…’”(Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43).  Separating the counterfeit from the Real – today for the disciple who is instructed as to the necessity of forgiveness. 

The gauntlet is down, and the standard is set now threefold:  First, righteousness must be greater than the religious leaders (5:20); Second, a life of perfection which is like God the Father (5:48), and now, third, righteous acts not to be seen by men (6:1).
Jesus moves succinctly from the counterfeit to the real – from a phony pretext of walking with God, to a real spiritual and living relationship with Him.  Jesus now transitions from prayer to fasting, addressing genuine spirituality and humility by our private life verses a public show and pretense.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  Matthew 6:16-18.
1.  Prayer and Fasting, Indications of Genuine Spirituality.  Here Jesus repeats the emphasis on a private commitment and walk with God.  Just as the heart pattern is critical for anger in the heart (called murder), lusting in the heart (called adultery), and marital fidelity (issue of divorce). 

2.  Show vs Go in our Spiritual Life.  Jesus now addresses the show (public fasting) verses the go (private fasting).  Act out your fasting publically, for show, and get your reward now (in other words, no real spiritual reward), or in secret (with a real spiritual reward from God, who sees what is done in secret).  One reward is earthly, temporary, of no eternal value.  The latter is spiritual, heavenly, a reward from God to those who are His faithful followers. 

3.  Identifying the Counterfeit.  So much of our life is being exposed to a blitz of commercials, advertisements, promotions, requests for giving and contributions – all full frontal in our face.  My point – the spiritual life starts and resides in the heart, coming from the work of God with our spirit, and only then selectively and without fanfare, worked out in the lives and communities around us.

Jesus had no tolerance for the phony.  He exposed the religious leaders for the charlatans that they were and directed the attention, understanding and devotion of the disciples away from the phony, the pretense, to the real – to Himself and to his Father who sent Him.  Check yourself, your behavior, your spiritual activities, and test them with the private vs public.  In every respect, you start out best and most genuinely with the private commitments of your heart and soul.  Good reminders for all of us.  Next week – how to be rich toward God. 

— John Moore

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