Sunday, January 6, 2013

Matthew 6 - Part II: Kingdom Living

LINK: Matthew 6

Jesus teaches about . . . 

58. Giving to the needy (6:1-4)

59. Prayer (6:5-15)
60. Fasting (6:16-18)
61. Money (6:19-24)
62. Worry (6:25-34)


BACKGROUND


In this part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus rejected the external righteousness of the Pharisees and encouraged an inner righteousness that serves and seeks to please an audience of One (God). 
Having shown us true well-being and the goodness of the kingdom heart, Jesus now, in Matthew 6, alerts us to two main things that will block or hinder a life constantly interactive with God and healthy growth in the kingdom. These are the desire to have the approval of others, especially for being devout, and the desire to secure ourselves by means of material wealth. 
If we allow them to, these two desires will pull us out of the sway of the kingdom -- "the range of God's effective will," as we have described it -- and back into the barren "righteousness" of the scribe and the Pharisee. But as we keep these two things in their proper place, through a constant, disciplined, and clear-eyed reliance on God, we will grow rapidly in kingdom substance. We will progressively incorporate all aspects of our life into the kingdom, including, of course, the social and the financial.  
(The Divine Conspiracy, p. 188)

He speaks of giving secretly to the poor, prayer, forgiveness, fasting, devotion to God rather than wealth, and the true cure for anxiety being seeking God first above all else.

The prayer section (6:5-15) contains the "Lord's Prayer," and it is meant as a guide rather than the only way to pray. We can look at the Lord's Prayer as a model in this way:
"Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name" -- The prayer principle of adoration (praise for who God is) and thanksgiving (praise for what He has done).
"Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" -- The principle of affirmation, that is, agreeing with God's will and submitting to it. 
"Give us our daily bread" -- The principle of supplication, in which we make requests both for ourselves (petition) and for others (intercession). 
"And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" -- The principle of confession in view of our need for forgiveness of sins. 
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" -- The necessity of renewal as we face the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.
"For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever" -- A closing prayer that honors the Lord and completes our thoughts.  
(from Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship by Kenneth Boa. This is a prayer guide for praying Scripture on a daily basis based around this structure. It is excellent for developing your prayer life in a way that does not make it legalistic! I have used it for years, and there are many used copies on Amazon.)
REFLECTION (written in 2010)

On the whole, I am not a big worrier. My mother worried about everything, and I was bound and determined to not be a worrier like her, but sometimes, I do worry. Last Sunday, it all came to a head as I lay on a heating pad in pain.

I worried about my six and a half week post operative appointment with my orthopedic surgeon the next day. In early December, the pin immobilizing the first joint of my big toe had accidentally come out. Since the only way to put it back in was another surgery, the doctor gave me a boot and told me not to move my toe until my next appointment in four weeks because the stitches in my tendon might come out. If that happened, I would have to do the surgery all over again (I had a friend who had to do that). This would mean another six weeks of inactivity and walking unevenly in a boot that raised my already longer leg another three inches. My back could not take that. I had already been bed-ridden for the better part of the previous 2 1/2 weeks when my muscles gave way to the strain of walking unevenly. Worry and anxiety gripped me about that Monday appointment.

I was also anxious about some big changes that my eldest son was making. He decided on a new youth group late in his high school career because he wanted more depth and deeper relationships that he just was not getting in the fun and games youth group he had been attending for 2 1/2 years prior. On top of all that, he was starting two college courses on Tuesday. This mama bear was anxious about her cub!

Last Sunday, as my son left with his dad to attend the new youth group, and I lay on a heating pad flat in bed because of my back pain, I poured out my heart to the Lord about the worry and anxiety I was feeling about everything. I thought of Matthew 6:28-34. Through tears I quoted Philippians 4:6-7:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I confessed my fears and anxieties, and He met me in that "sweet hour of prayer" and gave me a sense of great peace about the future.

Michael came home from the new youth group excited about a Youth Life Journal that his new Discipleship Group (D-Group) leader had given him. He immediately went downstairs to catch up because he was two days behind. He loves the challenge and is excited about the more relational way they organize things in this new group. People have been so welcoming. (Update: the next year he was on the leadership team in that youth group with an amazing group of young people. He loved every minute of it. What a great decision!)

Also, my fears were relieved the following Monday when the doctor told me to lift my toe. The surgery was successful! I walked out of there with my right shoe on for the first time in seven weeks!

The back quit spasming once I could walk more evenly without the boot. I am on the road to recovery, and I am staying away from drinking glasses that break and fall from the counter to the ground becoming guillotines for toe tendons (freak accident) AND wearing shoes in the kitchen while making my chai tea in the morning!

I am so thankful for that "sweet hour" when things came to a head, and I could release my worry to Him by seeking Him first!

APPLICATION

Are you worried about anything right now? Meditate more closely on Matthew 6:25-34 of today's passage and talk to God about your worry. I especially like this passage in The Message translation:

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. 
Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. 
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  
(Matthew 6:25–34)  

PRAYER

Pray through Matthew 6:25-34 by reading and then talking to God about what you have just read.