Deliver Us From the Performance of Religion

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically today’s passage is found in the sixth chapter of this New Testament book. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound the trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what the right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).

 

            “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites 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. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetition, as the heathen do: For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye:” (Matthew 6:5-9).

 

            “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13).

 

            “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

 

            “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18).

 

            “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth; where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matthew 6:19-23).

 

            “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. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his nature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and. Yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, what shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:24-34).

 

            When you come to the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find the second of three chapters describing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The more I think about and consider Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount the more I am absolutely and completely convinced there are two vital and necessary truths that stand at the very heart and foundation of the entire message. The first of these keys is found in the fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel while the second is actually found in the fifth chapter and within the sermon itself. If you turn and direct your attention to the seventeenth verse of the fourth chapter you will find Jesus beginning to teach and preach within the region of Galilee after returning in the power of the Holy Ghost from the wilderness where He was tempted of the devil. Upon returning unto Galilee and beginning to teach and preach we find the apostle Matthew recording how from that time Jesus would begin preaching, saying, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth and how absolutely incredible it is for it calls and draws our attention to the manifestation and demonstration of the kingdom of heaven. Some of the very first words Jesus began to preach during those days were concerning the kingdom of heaven and it’s manifestation and demonstration unto and among them. After returning unto Galilee the Lord would begin introducing men and women to the kingdom of heaven—something many were not accustomed to experiencing and knew very little about.

 

            As you read the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find Jesus beginning His earthly ministry by emphatically declaring unto those who were present that they ought to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This call and invitation to repent was not anything new during those days for you will recall John the Baptist also thundered during those days calling men and women to repent. Upon reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the Lord Jesus beginning to preach by emphatically thundering and declaring unto those who were present that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. What’s more is that immediately after this we find the Lord Jesus going about through all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Not only this but the Lord Jesus would also heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. As a direct result of this His fame would spread throughout all Syria and they would bring unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy. There would be countless individuals who would be brought unto the Lord Jesus and Jesus would heal them all—something that would great a great following and multitude of men and women from Galilee, from Decapolis, from Jerusalem, from Judaea and from beyond the Jordan.

 

            It is absolutely necessary we call and draw our attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for when we think about and consider it we are brought face to face with the demonstration of the kingdom of heaven. In the final verses of the fourth chapter of this gospel narrative we are brought face to face with the truly awesome and powerful reality of the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven during those days. The kingdom of heaven would indeed be manifested through mighty wonders, great signs and powerful healings. The apostle Matthew writes and records how Jesus would heal all those who gathered themselves unto Him and how His fame would spread throughout all Syria. What’s more is the apostle Matthew writes and records how there would follow the Lord Jesus great multitudes of people from Galilee, from Decaopolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth for the first key to understanding the words which are found in the Sermon on the Mount is the kingdom of heaven being at hand. You cannot understand the Sermon on the Mount without recognizing that with the presence and person of the Lord Jesus there was indeed the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. It would be the Lord Jesus who would usher and bring in the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. It would be Jesus who would declare unto those who would hear and listen to His words and voice that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and it is this particular truth that calls and draws our attention to the presence of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth.

 

            I am absolutely convinced that if you want to truly understand the Sermon on the Mount you must needs understand it as being part of the kingdom of heaven being at hand. If you read the Sermon on the Mount as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew you will find that at the very heart of the sermon is truly and indeed the kingdom of heaven and its manifestation in the midst of the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and powerful truth surrounding the Sermon on the Mount being a declaration of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. The kingdom of heaven would not only be introduced and manifested in the midst of the earth through various healings in Galilee but it would also be introduced through the Sermon on the Mount. In fact I would dare say that the Sermon on the Mount might very well be considered “The Constitution of the Kingdom” and that which outlines the direct manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. There is a great need within our hearts and our minds to recognize and understand just how incredibly powerful this truly is for it brings us face to face with the declaration of the kingdom of heaven. If signs, wonders and healing were the demonstration of the kingdom then the Sermon on the Mount might very well be considered “The Declaration of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

 

            THE DECLARATION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the Sermon on the Mount and how it is essentially the second side of the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. On the one hand there would be the demonstration of the kingdom of heaven which would be experienced through signs, wonders, miracles and healings while on the other hand there would be the declaration of the kingdom of heaven which would be experienced through the words which the Lord Jesus would teach and preach during those days. We must needs recognize and understand this for when we read the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the Lord Jesus we can and will be brought face to face with the declaration of the kingdom of heaven—and not only the declaration of the kingdom of heaven but also the introduction of the kingdom of heaven. If we are going to read the Sermon on the Mount we must needs acknowledge the awesome and wonderful truth that the words which are found and contained within it bring us face to face with the reality of the declaration of the kingdom of heaven directly from the mouth of the Lord Jesus. It would be through the Sermon on the Mount we are brought face to face with the declaration of the kingdom of heaven and its manifestation in the midst of the earth.

 

            There is something truly unique and astonishing when reading the words which are found within the fourth chapter for the Lord Jesus would indeed declare unto those in Galilee that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. It would be not long after that we find the Lord Jesus setting Himself down upon a mountain as large multitudes of people would gather themselves unto Him. It would be there at the mountain the Lord Jesus would deliver unto all those who were gathered unto Him the declaration of the kingdom of heaven much like the Law was given unto Moses while he was atop the mountain of God in the midst of the wilderness. The children of Israel would stand before the mountain of God and would observe all the thunders, all the lightnings, the thick darkness, the clouds, the smoke and the fire and they would know that the living God had descended atop and upon the mountain. It would be there from atop the mountain in the midst of the wilderness the living and eternal God would deliver the Law with all of its statutes, commands, decrees and precepts unto Moses that he might in turn teach and deliver it unto the children of Israel. What we find in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is something that is truly unique and special when you consider it for it calls and draws our attention to Jesus teaching the people who had gathered themselves unto Him much like the living God taught Moses and delivered unto him the Law in the midst of the wilderness. It would be here in the midst of the Galilee the Lord Jesus would indeed deliver unto all those who were gathered unto Him the declaration of the kingdom of heaven which had indeed been manifested unto and among them.

 

            As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that at the very heart of the Sermon on the Mount is the declaration of the kingdom of heaven. When you think about the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth you must needs recognize and understand that at the very heart and center of it is not only the demonstration of the kingdom of heaven but also the declaration of the kingdom of heaven. One cannot read the Sermon on the Mount and not be brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding Jesus’ declaration of the kingdom of heaven—and not only His declaration of the kingdom of heaven but also His introduction of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus would indeed make the declaration that the kingdom of heaven had been manifested within and upon the earth and now with the Sermon on the Mount He would emphatically declare what the kingdom of heaven would indeed look like upon the earth. The words which you find within this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the declaration of the kingdom of heaven and an understanding of that which the kingdom of heaven would look like in the midst of the earth. Oh there is a great need for us to pay close attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the truly wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven and how it would indeed be manifested in the midst of the earth.

 

            The more I read and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely incredible truth that the kingdom of heaven would be something that would be entirely and altogether introduced during the days of the Roman Empire. During those days Rome would be the dominant super power within and upon the face of the earth and Judaea, Jerusalem and Galilee would be under the authority and dominion of this empire. When Jesus emerged on to the scene teaching and speaking of an entirely new and different kingdom being manifested within and upon the earth He was introducing something directly under the nose of Rome itself. What’s more is that if you read the four New Testament gospel narratives written by the gospel authors you will find that despite all the talk of Jesus concerning and regarding the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth not once was He ever questioned or called into account by Rome. There are absolutely no examples or accounts of Roman soldiers or centurions coming unto the Lord Jesus inquiring of His teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven and there are absolutely no examples or accounts of Rome trying to silence the voice of the Lord Jesus. Oh stop for a moment and consider that for there is something truly unique and powerful when you think about the Lord Jesus teaching about a new and different kingdom being manifested within and upon the earth—and doing so during the days of the Roman Empire who ruled with an iron fist—and there was not a single Roman who desired to silence the voice and mouth of the Lord Jesus.

 

            I read the words which are found within these passages of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that despite the Lord Jesus teaching and preaching concerning the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven there was not a single member of Rome—whether a member of their senate, whether a soldier, whether a centurion or anyone else from Rome itself—who would seek to silence the voice of the Lord Jesus. Despite all the talk and communication Jesus delivered concerning the kingdom of heaven it would appear that Rome was not in any way threatened by any of the words He would speak. The more you read the four gospel narratives which were written by the apostle Matthew the more you will be brought face to face with the truly astonishing and powerful reality that Jesus would come teaching and preaching concerning the kingdom of heaven and its manifestation in the midst of the earth and Rome itself would never bat a single eye at His words. Rome would never find fault or take offense with the words which the Lord Jesus would teach and speak concerning the kingdom of heaven and its almost as if they weren’t at all bothered or concerned with the words which He spoke. Jesus would constantly teach concerning the kingdom of heaven and it would appear that Rome itself would pay absolutely no attention to any of the words which He would speak. Rome itself appeared to be entirely and altogether unphased by any of the words which Jesus speaks and the only time we find Rome even being involved with the Lord Jesus is after the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the people, the Pharisees and the religious community delivered Jesus unto Pontius Pilate there in the midst of Jerusalem.

 

            When you read the words which are found within these chapters you will indeed be brought face to face with the wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the declaration of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. The Lord Jesus would indeed emphatically declare unto those who were present that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and through this Sermon on the Mount He would emphatically make the declaration concerning the kingdom of heaven. It would be within this Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus would deliver unto all those who gathered themselves unto Him the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. If you want to truly understand the words and language that is found in this passage of Scripture you must needs recognize that at the very heart and center of the Sermon on the Mount is the kingdom of heaven and its manifestation in the midst of the earth. This nation has at the very foundation and center of its culture and society the Constitution which does in fact have within it the Bill of Rights. Both the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself serve as a vital and critical part of this nation’s fabric and make up and we must needs recognize and understand just how absolutely incredible this truly is. There is something incredibly unique about the words which we find in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the declaration of the kingdom of heaven which would start and begin—not necessarily with its own Bill of Rights but with what has become known as “The Beatitudes” or what I would like to call “the attitude of being” in the midst of the earth.

 

            I sit here today considering the words and language that is found in the Sermon on the Mount and I am brought face to face with the truly awesome and powerful truth surrounding the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven. Through the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus would make a declaration concerning the kingdom of heaven and it’s presence in the midst of the earth. What we must needs recognize and understand concerning this is that this declaration would be intended to deliver unto those who gathered themselves unto Him the message of the kingdom of heaven. There is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the word which are found in the Sermon on the Mount for within them we are brought face to face with the declaration of the kingdom of heaven and what it would look like in the midst of the earth. Not only this but when delivering the Sermon on the Mount as a declaration of the kingdom that which the Lord Jesus was indeed doing was teaching and preaching unto the multitudes and crowds concerning the kingdom of heaven and what it would look like in the midst of the earth. The kingdom of heaven would indeed look like and appear to be all about demonstration and manifestation and yet the truth of the matter is that there was another side to the kingdom of heaven—namely how its citizens operated and functioned in the midst of the earth and in the midst of society and culture of those days.

 

            With all of this being said it is absolutely necessary to recognize the second key to understanding and unlocking the Sermon on the Mount. It would be within the fifth chapter of this New Testament book we find the second key used to unlock this passage of Scripture—one that strikes at the very core and center of everything Jesus would present unto the multitudes who gathered themselves unto Him. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the fifth chapter beginning with the seventeenth verse you will find Jesus declaring that He did not come to destroy the Law or the prophets—He did not come to destroy but to fulfill. Jesus would go on to declare that until heaven and earth pass there would not be one jot or tittle that would pass from the Law until all would be fulfilled. This would immediately be followed by the Lord declaring that whosoever would break one of the least commandments in the Law and would teach men to do so would be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. Not only this but Jesus would also go on to declare that whosoever would not only do the commandments which are found in the Law but would also teach men to do so would be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. These words would be immediately followed by the Lord Jesus making one of the most striking and alarming declarations concerning the kingdom of heaven. It would be in the twentieth verse of the fifth chapter the Lord Jesus would declare unto His disciples and unto the multitude that gathered themselves unto Him that except their righteousness would exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

            Pause for a moment and consider the words which are found in the fifth chapter of this New Testament gospel for they bring us face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding the righteousness of religion and the righteousness of the inhabitants and citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which were spoken here by the Lord Jesus for they call and draw our attention to one of the core and foundational principles within the kingdom of heaven. There is within the kingdom of heaven a clarion call to a righteousness that was entirely and altogether different from the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. What’s more is Jesus would even go on to declare that unless their righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. That which would immediately follow these words and this declaration would be a stark and powerful contrast between the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees and the righteousness of the citizens and inhabitants of the kingdom of heaven. What you find within the remaining verses of the fifth chapter as well as the words you find in the sixth chapter call and draw our attention to the truly wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. Oh if you want to truly understand the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth you must needs understand that the living God calls the citizens of this kingdom unto a righteousness that was entirely and altogether different from that of the scribes and the Pharisees. The scribes and the Pharisees would have their own idea and understanding of what righteousness in the sight of both God and man would look like and yet Jesus would declare unto His disciples and followers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

            As you continue reading the words which are found in the fifth chapter of this New Testament gospel you can and will be brought face to face with the contrast and comparison of the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. What’s more is that you can and will be brought face to face with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees which they taught unto men during those days. With the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus would deliver His disciples and followers from the cruel tyranny and oppression of religion during those days. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture we can and will be brought face to face with the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven—a righteousness which is not outward and external but a righteousness which is internal and begins with our hearts. The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees is such that focuses merely on external and outward observance of the letter of the Law without actually allowing it to touch and transform their hearts. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to our own lives and whether or not our obedience is based on an external and outward observance of the Law or whether it begins with the heart. There is a great need within ourselves to recognize and understand whether or not we truly walk in obedience with our hearts or whether our obedience is merely external and outward in nature. The scribes and the Pharisees were such who thought and believed they could merely observe the letter of the Law without it actually touching and transforming their hearts.

 

            I read the words which are found in the latter portion of the fifth chapter and I am brought face to with the righteousness which comes from the Law and merely touches the outward and external person while leaving the inner person entirely and altogether untouched. The words which you find in the final verses of the fifth chapter present a powerful contrast between the righteousness which they heard taught and spoken unto them and the righteousness which was of the kingdom of heaven. With this being said it is absolutely necessary and imperative to recognize that Jesus didn’t come to establish a new Law but merely introduce an entirely new way to walk in obedience to the Law and the prophets. For countless generations there were men and women who thought and believed they could merely observe the Law based on outward and external manifestations without actually focusing on the heart. There is something truly astonishing and powerful about the words which we find here within this passage of Scripture for what we find within it calls and draws our attention to the truth that obedience starts and begins with the heart. Oh would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the fact that you could perfectly observe and obey the Law of Moses to the letter according to all manner of outward and external appearances and yet still be guilty of transgressing the Law? Would it surprise you to note that you could indeed outwardly observe the Law and the prophets and appear righteous unto men and yet inwardly you are full of all manner of filth, wickedness, transgression and iniquity?

            If there is one thing the words which the Lord Jesus speaks within this passage of Scripture reveals it’s that true obedience—obedience to the Law and obedience to the commands of the living God—does not begin and is not based on outward demonstration and manifestation but inward transformation of the heart. We must needs recognize and understand that true obedience in the sight of the living God does indeed begin within the heart of a man or a woman and is something which must be committed to. The words which we find in the final portion of the fifth chapter sets forth a clear and present comparison between the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees which was taught unto men and women during those days and the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. Throughout the final verses of the fifth chapter you will find the Lord Jesus declaring unto His disciples and followers how they had heard that it was said by those of old time but how He would say unto them something entirely different. In order to understand the words and language that is found in this passage of Scripture we must needs pay careful and close attention to this contrast between the righteousness of the scribes and the righteousness of the inhabitants of the kingdom of heaven. That which was taught unto those who were present during those days was an obedience that was merely outward in nature and yet what we find Jesus coming to introduce and bring unto men and women during those days was an obedience that was inward and truly touched the heart.

 

            As you read the words which are found in the fifth chapter you will find Jesus speaking about adultery and murder and using both of these to emphatically declare that obedience to the Law—and not only obedience to the Law but obedience unto the living God—begins with the heart. Jesus used the command not to murder and the command not to commit adultery to demonstrate that which was commanded in the Law and what men and would think and believe obedience to be. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for there would be those who would think that merely abstaining from murder and adultery guaranteed they were walking in obedience to the Law of Moses. There were those who were present during these days and times who believed they were walking in true obedience to the Law and that they were walking in obedience and righteousness in the sight of the living God. What we find here in this passage, however, is Jesus declaring that it is possible we don’t actually carry out and commit murder according to what the Law speaks of us but how we can be guilty of judgment and hell fire simply by being angry with our brother without a case, calling them a fool, and speaking the word “Raca.” Moreover Jesus would declare unto His disciples and the multitude which was gathered unto Him that they could abstain from physically committing the act of adultery and yet still be guilty in the sight of the living God simply by looking upon someone else with lust. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand this for within this passage Jesus brings us face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality that we can abstain from murder and adultery in the physical and outward sense and yet be guilty of both within our hearts.

 

            Would it shock and surprise you to consider the fact that you can be guilty of transgressing the Law within your own heart? Would you be surprised if I told you that you can outwardly appear righteous in the sight and presence of others in this life and yet inwardly you are filled with all manner of evil, unrighteousness, wickedness, transgression and iniquity? The words which the Lord Jesus speaks within this passage calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding obedience and disobedience beginning with the heart. We would like to think that obedience—true obedience to that which the living God has spoken and commanded—begins with our outward and external demonstration and yet the truth of the matter is that obedience has always and still does to this day begin with the heart. Conversely it is absolutely necessary for us to recognize that just obedience begins with the heart so also does disobedience begin with the heart. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it if we are to truly be citizens of the kingdom of heaven and possess a righteousness that is entirely and altogether different from the scribes and Pharisees we must be those who obey from the heart. It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize that true obedience does indeed begin with the heart and that it is possible to observe and obey the Law outwardly and in the sight of men while in the sight of the living God be guilty of transgressing the very thing(s) we thought we were obeying. Oh this is precisely what is found at the very heart and center of the words which we read in the sixth chapter for there is a clear contrast between that which is visible in the sight of men and appears to be righteous and that which is absent the sight of God and brings Him absolutely no pleasure.

 

            I find it absolutely necessary at this particular juncture to call and draw your attention to the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding Jesus’ words in the sixth chapter. The words we find within the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew call and draw our attention to the astonishing truth that the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was one that was not only external and outward in nature but was also all show and no transformation. Just as there is an obedience to the Law of Moses that is external and outward in nature so also is there a righteousness that is outward and external in its nature and one that is entirely and altogether for show. That which we find in the sixth chapter of this gospel narrative calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees who believed themselves to be righteous—and not only believed themselves to be righteous but also did their righteousness to be seen of men. When you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you can and will be brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees and how the scribes and the Pharisees performed their deeds and their works—not to please the living God who sits enthroned in the heavens but to please men. It is absolutely unmistakable to read the words found in the sixth chapter and not encounter the scribes and the Pharisees who outwardly acted righteous in the sight of men that they might receive praise and honor from them while at the same time appearing unrighteous in the sight of the living God. There is something we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in the sixth chapter for they call and draw our attention to the undeniable truth that just as there is an obedience that is external in nature so also is there a “righteousness” or good works and deeds that is outward and external. Moreover such “righteousness” has absolutely nothing to do with pleasing the living God but receiving praise, glory and honor from men.

 

            It is at this juncture I Invite you to consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixth chapter. The words which we find in the sixth chapter call and draw our attention to the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees which was all about show, pomp and circumstance. That which we find present in this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to a righteousness that was entirely and altogether based on appearing righteous in the sight of men that we might receive praise, glory and honor from them. It was indeed true that Jesus instructed His disciples and followers to let their light so shine that others might see their good works and glorify the Father which is in heaven, however, these words by no mean called and invited men and women to focus their attention on receiving praise, glory and honor from men. It was indeed true the Lord Jesus instructed and commanded His disciples and followers to let their light so shine before men that others might see their good works and glory the Father which is in heaven and we must needs make sure we don’t lose sight of what is found in the final part of that declaration. It is with the final part of that verse Jesus speaks of the underlying and central focus of letting our lights so shine before men—namely that they might see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. There is a great need within our hearts and lives to recognize and understand that at the very core and center of everything we do is the glory and honor of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for when we come to the sixth chapter we come face to face with “righteousness” and “religion” that is all show in the sight and presence of men and has absolutely no interest in pleasing and bringing glory and honor to the living God. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixth chapter beginning to read with and from the first verse:

 

            “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).

 

            “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites 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. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:5-8).

 

            “Moreover when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18).

 

 

            I am convinced it is absolutely necessary we pay attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding righteousness that is done solely for show in the eyes and sight of men. Oh there is indeed a righteousness that is all show and is merely outward and external in nature as if we are somehow doing a performance in the sight and presence of others. There is a righteousness—or rather a perceived righteousness—that is all show, all pomp, all circumstance, all flare and has absolutely nothing to do with bringing glory, honor and pleasure to the sight of the living God. There is indeed a righteousness that outwardly appears to be pure and holy in the sight of men and yet in the sight of God it is nothing more than vile and wicked. The scribes and the Pharisees performed their deeds and their works—not to be seen of the living God and bring glory and honor to Him but rather to bring themselves praise, accolades, honor, respect and even renown. The scribes and the Pharisees performed their fasting, their praying and even their giving in the sight of men that men might glorify and honor them rather than living God who exists in heaven. What we find within this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to a righteousness that outwardly appears to be holy and pure and true and yet is nothing more than show, performance and smoke and mirrors. It is absolutely necessary we recognize that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was nothing more than smoke and mirrors and was all about performance and receiving honor, praise and glory from men rather than pleasing the living God and bringing Him glory and honor.

 

            As I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding that which the Father and that which the Father knows. If you take the time to read the words which are present in this passage of Scripture you can and will be brought face to face with the absolutely incredible picture of the Father not only knowing what we have need of before we ask Him but also seeing. What’s more is that not only does the Father see but the Father sees in secret—something Jesus sought to convey unto His disciples and the multitude. The scribes and the Pharisees committed themselves to a righteousness which was earthly, natural and temporal for they focused it entirely and altogether on that which others would see. Jesus describes the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees as not only being all show but also being such that is designed to receive praise and honor from men. The words which our Lord presents in this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and His description—not only of the scribes and the Pharisees but also of their righteousness. It’s important to recognize and understand that when you come to the sixth chapter of this New Testament gospel you won’t find Jesus speaking of the scribes and Pharisees by name but rather “hypocrites.” The words presented in this passage bring us face to face with the absolutely powerful truth surrounding hypocrisy and how hypocrisy can be defined as doing our works, our deeds and even our “righteousness” in the sight of men to be seen of them. That which the Lord Jesus calls and draws our attention to within this passage of Scripture is incredibly unique when you take the time to think about it for it brings us face to face with a righteousness which has absolutely nothing to do with pleasing the living God but merely pleasing men.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with those who would seek to do both their works and their deeds before and in the sight of men. Jesus describes these individuals as hypocrites who desired to be seen of men that they might receive praise and glory and honor from men. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding those who only do righteousness and good deeds in the sight of others if they can be seen and recognized. With this being said I find myself coming face to face with the tremendous danger of being seeing by men in the earth and yet being entirely unseen in heaven. Jesus clearly set forth a contrast within this passage of Scripture between those who did their alms, their giving and their praying in the sight and hearing of men to be seen of them while the whole time being unaware of the fact that none of it matters in the sight and presence of the living God. Jesus made it very clear in this passage of Scripture that there were those who did their alms before men to be seen of them and how they had no reward in heaven. Moreover Jesus would go on to describe how they sounded a trumpet before them as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may have glory of men—and not only glory of men but also their reward which is here within and upon the earth. Furthermore Jesus would go on to describe those who prayed and prayed standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they too might be seen. This line of thinking would also touch fasting and those who committed themselves to fasting and desired to be seen of men.

 

            I absolutely love the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it draws a clear parallel and distinction between the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and the righteousness of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus made it perfectly clear that unless our righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees we would not enter into the kingdom of heaven. In order to explain this even further Jesus would describe that obedience has always and must truly begin within one’s heart. The Lord Jesus made it perfectly clear that just as we can obey from the heart so also can we disobey from the heart—something the scribes and the Pharisees had absolutely no clue about. The words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers called and drew their attention to the tremendous and incredible truth that it is possible to obey the Law down to the letter externally and outwardly and yet inwardly be guilty of the very things we believe ourselves to be obeying. What’s more is this same principle seems to be found in the sixth chapter as there are those who committed themselves to prayer, to fasting and to giving thinking that such measures and actions pleased and glorified the living God. The truth of the matter, however, is that what they were doing was nothing more than seeking to receive praise and glory from men without being concerned with pleasing and glorying the living God. These men and women have sought an earthly, natural and temporal reward here upon the earth rather than one that is secured in heaven where the eternal and living God is. Jesus spoke of those who did their alms, prayed and even fasted that they might be seen of men here upon the earth not even realizing that they were going unnoticed in heaven by the Father.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are present in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and the words which He spoke. The Lord Jesus made it perfectly clear that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees we would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus would then go on to describe a righteousness that is of the earth and focuses solely on that which is outward and external and does absolutely to touch and transform the heart. What’s more is the Lord Jesus also describes praying, fasting and giving as being practices which can in fact reveal the nature and condition of someone’s heart. The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will be brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding fasting, prayer and giving not only being means to reveal the condition of our heart and any righteousness we perceive ourselves to have in the sight of the living God but also any hypocrisy which might be present within ourselves. Jesus made it perfectly and abundantly clear within this passage that prayer, fasting and giving—particularly if we do such things to be seen and heard of men—can in fact reveal the hypocrisy within our hearts. What’s more is that giving ourselves to prayer, to fasting and even giving itself can indeed show whether or not we are more concerned with the praise of men versus the glory and honor of the living God. That which we find in this passage of Scripture brings us face to face with men and women who would rather live with the glory and honor of men in this life rather than living to praise, honor and glorify the living God in the earth.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I can’t help but be brought face to face with the tremendous language that is contained within this passage of Scripture. The words and language found here calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth that surrounds our desire to please, honor and glorify the living God versus our desire to please, be seen and be heard of men. There are those whose “righteousness” is and can only be seen of men here upon the earth because they care absolutely nothing about the divine pleasure of the living God. Jesus warned and cautioned His disciples and followers to beware of doing their alms before men to be seen of them, to make their prayers so they’re heard before men and even to make their fasting known unto and before men. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we as disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are such who are truly devoted and committed to bringing glory, praise and honor unto the living and eternal God. There is a great need within our hearts to recognize and understand whether or not we are willing to live our lives solely for the divine pleasure of the living God or whether we are concerned with the accolades of man. Jesus warned and cautioned those who were present on this particular day of a righteousness that sought to be seen and heard of men rather than be seen and heard by the Father. Jesus urged His disciples and followers to not be like the hypocrites who desired the praise, the accolades, the honor and the glory of men rather than the honor and pleasure of the living God. What’s more is that even the way Jesus taught us to pray brings us face to face with the incredible truth surrounding our interest with the holiness of the living God, the name of God, the kingdom of God and the will of God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for to do so would be to miss out on a wonderful invitation to deliver ourselves from all manner of hypocrisy, legalism and religion.

 

            At this particular juncture I feel it necessary to call and draw your attention to whether or not you desire to be one who brings pleasure, glory and honor unto the living God or whether you are such who desires the praise and accolades of man. What’s more is I find it absolutely imperative to ask you whether or not you are willing to be such who is willing to allow ourself to be delivered from all manner of religion, works, hypocrisy and legalism. The kingdom of heaven is a wonderful and powerful invitation to allow ourselves to be free from pleasing man, to be free from desiring to be seen and heard of man and even to allow ourselves to be consumed with the cares of this world—that which would choke the life of the Word of God from within our hearts and lives. There is within this passage a wonderful and powerful invitation to not only deliver ourselves from religion and hypocrisy but also to deliver ourselves from the cares of this world—specifically what we will eat and what we will wear. Moreover Jesus gives us an invitation to deliver ourselves from the love of money which is the root of all evil that we might store up for ourselves treasure in heaven. Oh we must needs be those who allow ourselves to be completely and utterly free from all manner of religion, all manner of hypocrisy and the cares of this world. Oh that we would be those who are completely and entirely free from the cares of this world—what we shall eat, what we shall wear—and even and especially the love of money which is the root of evil. Oh that we would be people whose sole priority is not only the name of the living God but also the kingdom and will of the living God and that our lives be entirely and altogether submitted and surrendered to and for that purpose.

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