HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 19, 2017)
It was a perfect end to a busy week. I had accomplished everything on my agenda, which is rare. Now it was time to head home and catch up on some well-needed family time. My face was smiling, my shoulders were relaxed, my mind was clear, my steps were unhurried, and I was humming Old Satch, “What a Wonderful World.” Then it happened. In a matter of seconds, the smile vanished, the shoulders became tense, the mind turned muddy, the swag was gone, and I think I began humming Old Hank, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” The family time was nothing like I had envisioned. If truth be told, it was a rather miserable weekend. You ask, “What brought such sudden and miserable change?” Well, I ran into a toxic person. You know the type who pushes you into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, the fictional bog in which a person sinks under the weight of sin, guilt, shame, and discouragement. Have you ever been a victim of a toxic person? Let me share with you how to handle them:
First, recognize them for who they are. Toxic people come in all types. Dr. Travis Bradberry (double PhD in Clinical and Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence 2.0) identifies 10 kinds of toxic people: The Gossip, The Temperamental, The Victim, The Self-Absorbed, The Envious, The Manipulator, The Dementor, The Twisted, The Judgmental, and The Arrogant. Most of these designations are self-explanatory except for maybe the Dementor and the Twisted. The former are the kind who suck the life out of the room by their negativity and pessimism and the latter are out to hurt you, make you feel bad, or get something from you. Bradberry warns, “toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs…Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.”
Next, always be prepared to face toxic people. To think that we can avoid them completely is unrealistic and naïve. They might be in the family, neighborhood, workplace, or social organizations (even church!). Trying to ignore them or keep them at arm’s length will only aggravate the situation and attempting to mirror their behavior will only lead to disaster. Instead, learn their behavior patterns and establish the appropriate emotional boundaries in your mind. Don’t get smug like me and stumble into a bad weekend. Also, avoid any toxic song, show, movie, book, or event in your life. Such things only add unnecessary toxicity to your life.
What if the damage has been done? Many years ago I allowed a toxic person to steal my joy. It took a toll on my health, family, and spiritual life. God in his mercy sent a mature person into my life who immediately recognized my distress. He pointedly asked, “Do you want this toxin out of your system?” At first I pretended to be fine and then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride. This godly person told me that he too struggled with it and he found help in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He said, “Start praying that God would bless this person who has been toxic in your life. Pray for the next 20 days for physical, spiritual, and financial blessing in their life. Be aware that the first time you pray that it will be impossible to mouth those words. Do it again the next day and you might feel sick to your stomach but don’t stop. Eventually, it will become easier and easier. Then, there will come a day when you will pray and actually find yourself praying sincerely as if for a friend. Somewhere towards the end of the 20 days, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you are free. The toxin has cleared out of your system.” Guess what! It actually worked!
Ultimately, sin is the toxin and only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can heal your life. Give it a try today.
CHOICES THAT LEAD TO HAPPY ENDINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This is the final message in our series through the Sermon on the Mount. Many of y’all have shared with me how much these messages have impacted your life! No wonder it’s called the greatest sermon ever preached!
Matthew 7 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Bridge: I don’t know if you’ve ever done this but a few months back I stopped by a gas station for gas. I pulled in at the pump, went in, stood in line, paid for the gas, walked out, got in my truck, and left. As I am driving I kept feeling like something wasn’t right. Then, it hit me! I forgot to get gas. Immediately I turned around and pulled in at the same pump. Thank goodness no one had come in behind me or it would’ve been “Merry Christmas!” for that person. Folks, that’s exactly what happens when you come to church, hear the Word of God, understand the Word of God, but when it comes time to apply the Word of God, you get up, walk out, and go back to your life! Howard Hendricks used to say and I’ve heard Rick Warren say it too – “Observation and Interpretation without Application is Abortion!”
Context: In Matthew 5-7 Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever – the 8 Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek…), the Salt and Light passage (You are the Salt of the Earth, You are the Light of the World), the 6 Antithesis (You’ve heard it said…but I say to you…), the importance of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father in Heaven…), the importance of marriage, how to deal with anxiety and worry, and the danger of judging others. After preaching a master sermon, in these final 15 verses Jesus laid out the application. The people had a choice to make – Choose Jesus and His Words and have a happy ending in life or reject Him and be on the Road to Destruction.
Question: You’ve heard many sermons and will hear many more. What choice have you made? Have you chosen to follow Jesus and His Words or have you chosen to live your life your way? Are you a doer of the Word or are you only a hearer of the Word? Is there a change in your life? Are you saved? If not, what is keeping you from it?
In this message, we will see the 4 choices Jesus gave to the people, 4 choices that lead to happy endings. Let the Holy Spirit make you a doer of the Word:
I. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED.
13 “Enter by the narrow gate…”
Background: Typically, this passage is interpreted as an invitation to salvation – “Come through the narrow gate and get saved!” That may be implied but it’s not the main focus of this section. Jesus wanted His listeners to understand that the life He offered was amazing and wonderful but it wasn’t easy and cheap. To live this kind of life, they would have to choose to do things differently – “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Meaning: Don’t think for a moment that the standards are lower for this kind of life – “You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t murder’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t be angry’…“You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t commit adultery’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t even look at a woman with lust’…You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I say to you, ‘love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’” In other words, Jesus was no charlatan – “Sign on the dotted line and all your problems will be gone forever.”
Christian life is not a convenient life. The gate is narrow, the road is difficult, and not everyone you know will join you. Having said that, it is worth it – 14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Illustration: “I have decided to follow Jesus” from the Nagas who were headhunters. “Though none go with me, still I will follow” was a tough line for them.
Application: Are you looking for easy Christianity? Are you looking for everyone to understand before you follow? Are you willing to pay the price?
II. GUARD YOURSELF AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing…”
Background: It seems odd that Jesus would bring up the subject of false prophets in His application. Why did He think that it was critical to warn his listeners against them? Jesus raised the bar of righteousness for His listeners. He raised the standard of holiness. He did not promise a cheap and easy life. But, He was not a legalist. There’s a world of difference. Legalists are people who come with man-made lists and impose personal morality and rules. Unlike Jesus who came to set people free, these false prophets would come to bind people and enslave them in rules and regulations. They would use guilt and shame to control the masses. Jesus called them the “ravenous wolves.”
Illustration: Many times people come with some rule and regulation and personal morality and standard and they try to convince me to implement that at Clearview. I listen and filter it through the mesh of grace and mercy.
Yes – My Jesus has a “rod and a staff” but they comfort me. Your rod and staff beat people over the head.
What did Jesus do? He switched the analogy and gave them the litmus test for such false prophets.16 You will know them by their fruits. Meaning: Look at their lives. See if their teachings are working in their own lives. Jesus was not implying that you have to wait the whole season until harvest time to figure out what the fruit is. “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” If it’s got thorns, then it’s not a grape vine. If it has prickles and spikes, then it’s not a fig tree. 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.Here’s the point: Is their message changing their own life first? They are the test, not you. If they are not walking towards Christ, then stop following them. If they are not obeying Christ, then stop following them. If you don’t see Christ in them, then stop following them.
Application: Whom are you following? Is it Jesus or is it someone or something else? Are you drawing closer to Christ or further away from Him?
III. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE TO OBEDIENCE.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Background: Can you imagine the reaction in the crowd when Jesus said those words? 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” There’s Brother “Amen” and there’s Sister “Hallelujah.” There’s Mr “Praise God” and there’s Mrs “Bless Jesus.” They’re sitting right up close to Jesus. Every time Jesus pauses for a breath, they are ready to chime in with a spiritual anecdote. They are always ready to quote some bible verse. Even though they are addressing Him with the double vocative “Lord, Lord,” which is the LXX reference for “Yahweh,” the name for God, they don’t really mean that. Jesus can see their hearts and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him. They’re saying all that not to please Him but to impress Him. Because, if they truly believed that He was God, they would obey the “will of His Father in Heaven.” Jesus calls them out because pretend spirituality cannot substitute obedience.
But, there’s something else that cannot substitute obedience – 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ There’s Brother “Gift of prophecy.” There’s Sister “I know everything about the end times.” There’s Mr “Bind Satan.” There’s Mrs “Seen miracles everyday.” They’re also in the crowd and they’re always telling the same worn out, clichéd stories. They even add the phrase “in Jesus name” to legitimize their accounts. Jesus can see their hearts as well and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him either. They’re saying all that not to praise Him but to prove themselves to Him. What’s His reply? 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Jesus calls them out as well because spiritual activities cannot substitute obedience.
Application: What are you substituting for obedience? Spiritual lingo, Spiritual knowledge, or Spiritual experiences. What will Jesus say to you on the Day of Judgment – “I never knew you,” “Depart from Me” or “Well done good and faithful servant”?
IV. TRIALS PROVE US NOT DESTROY US.
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
Background: In conclusion, Jesus gives a parable of two men who built homes, one on the rock and the other on the sand. The Rock represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus and obey Him. The Sand represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus but disobey Him. Both of them face a hurricane with rains, floods, and heavy winds. Trials are not selective. They come to all of us, to the saved and the unsaved. But what is the result? The house built on the rock stood but the house built on the sand fell and “great was its fall.”What is the point? Following Jesus will not exempt you from trials in life but it will prove your faith in trials.
In other words, your choices will lead to happy endings.
Invitation: Are you saved? Are you taking the road less travelled? Are you guarding yourself against false teachers? Are you obeying Christ and His Word? Do you doubt His care in your life? “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to Trust and Obey.”
ASK, SEEK, KNOCK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: We’re in our series through the Sermon on the Mount and today we come to Matthew 7:7 where Jesus again talks about prayer and the message is titled – ASK, SEEK, KNOCK.
Matthew 7 7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Bridge: How many of you believe that prayer is powerful? How many of you believe that God answers prayers? How many of you admit that you don’t pray like you believe?
Illustration: Back in college, I lived in a dorm where the ground floor had a break room with some video games and vending machines. One time this coke machine had a glitch. All you had to do was hit a selection and it would give you a coke! When a few of us found that out, we kept that a tightly guarded secret. We made sure no one was around when we went down to get a drink. Every time we would walk past the break room, we would glance to make sure no one else had figured it out. And mind you – this was a Christian college! When you’re in college, 55 cents is a lot of money! We had convinced ourselves that God had done this! But…all good things come to an end. They fixed the glitch. But even months later, we would walk by and just tap a selection, just in case…
Prayer is like that vending machine. You don’t need any change, just need to tap a selection. But unlike that coke machine, God gives you much more than you tap for. By the way, prayer is not a glitch that may get fixed tomorrow. Prayer is a lifelong privilege for every believer.
Context: In the passage we just read, Jesus once again returns to the topic of prayer and encourages His listeners to pray and pray continuously and pray confidently.
Question: How is your prayer life? Do you pray daily? Do you pray confidently? Do you pray expecting God to answer your needs? Have you stopped praying? Have you given up on prayer? Could it be that you don’t pray like you used to because you are disappointed with God? You asked and He did not answer. You pleaded and He did not answer the way you wished He had. Today’s message will help clear some of those misunderstandings so you can pray again and pray better than before. But the prayer that God wants you to pray more than any other is the prayer of salvation. Have you ever prayed to ask Jesus to save you and come into your life? Do it now.
You may not know but there are 3 questions often raised about this passage on prayer. We will try to answer them and in the process understand the importance of prayer:
I. WHY DID JESUS BRING UP PRAYER AGAIN?
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find…”
Background: For those of you who have been following this series on the Sermon on the Mount, you may remember that Jesus talked about prayer earlier in this sermon. In chapter 6, He told His disciples not to pray like the hypocrites, standing in the synagogues and the street corners. He taught them to pray in the secret place and without vain repetitions. He taught them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come…” Then it seemed like He was done with the subject of prayer and went on to talk about treasures and serving two masters and worry and anxiety and judging others. Then abruptly and randomly He starts talking about prayer again! What’s going on?
Listen carefully – Jesus was not revisiting the subject of prayer. He never left it to begin with. He was still on the subject of prayer. Everything that He talked about after teaching “The Lord’s Prayer” was still in the context of talking to the Father:
“Treasures on earth and treasures in heaven” was about trusting the Father.
“Not serving two masters” was about remaining loyal only to God.
“Not to worry” was about taking all our cares and anxieties to God.
“Judge not” was about prayerfully confronting and not condemning others.
The point is that Jesus never left the subject of prayer. In His own life, prayer undergirded everything that He did. He prayed late into the night. He prayed early in the morning while it was still dark. He prayed before meals. He prayed before He chose His disciples. He prayed before the miracles. He prayed after the miracles. He prayed when He was busy. He prayed when He was tired. He prayed by Himself. He prayed with others. He prayed in the face of disbelief. He prayed in the face of temptation. He prayed for Himself. He prayed for others. The point is this – Prayer marked Jesus’s life. In other words, Jesus was constantly in a state of prayer.
The problem with us today is that we compartmentalize our life between sacred and secular, devotion and duty, and prayer and practice, but Jesus didn’t. We tack on prayer to our day or sprinkle it once in a while when prayer should be interwoven throughout our daily life. Every moment, every step, and every decision we make in life should be approached with prayer. You should always be in a spirit and a mindset of prayer.
Application: Does prayer mark your life? Can it be said of you what was said of Jesus in Hebrews 5:7 that “in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear…” Or do you bring up prayer only when things get rough?
II. WAS JESUS TELLING US NOT TO GIVE UP ON PRAYER?
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Background: A common misunderstandings about this passage is that Jesus was simply reminding us to persist in prayer. I’ve heard messages on this passage and I’m sure you have to where the speaker said that the reason Jesus used the triple imperatives – Ask, Seek, and Knock – was to emphasize the need to pray. Although, we should “pray without ceasing,” as Paul tells us in I Thessalonians 5:17, this passage is not about persistence in prayer. Some even claim that a better translation would be “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.” To me it would be an overtranslation.
What was Jesus’ intent in using the triple imperatives – “Ask, Seek, and Knock?” Listen to the verses following – 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Think about the illustration. Jesus is using sarcasm, a form of humor. Picture Dad or mom – your son or daughter comes to you and says, “I’m hungry. Can I have a sandwich?” You answer – “Here’s a rock sandwich. There’s more where that came from!” Or, they come to you and say – “Can we have some fish?” You answer – “Sure. Here’s a Copperhead. Try it with some BBQ sauce.” How ridiculous does that sound? Now if sinful human parents will give good things to their children, will not the perfect Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him.
What’s the point? Jesus is not advocating persistence in prayer that but assurance in the nature of God. In other words, don’t give up on prayer not because you shouldn’t give up on prayer but don’t give up on prayer because you have a Heavenly Father who will always give you the very best. Meaning: Don’t just believe in the power of prayer but trust in the nature of God. So the real question is not “Do you believe in the power of prayer?” but “Do you trust in the nature of God?” This brings up another question – “What do you believe about God?”
Illustration: Many years ago at a very vulnerable time in a life when I was going through some doubts and discouragements about my life, I heard a message by Warren Wiersbe. In this message, he made a statement that has stayed me and come back to me time and again when I needed it – “Satan will try to tell you that ‘God is not giving you what you deserve’ or that ‘God is holding out on the best for your life.’” If you think about it, this is exactly what he told our grandparents Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 – “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Her response – “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” His response – “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Listen carefully – People stop praying because somewhere they start believing the lies of Satan and start trusting in the true nature of God. They start making rash, erratic, and prayerless decisions because they have believed some lie about God.
Application: What do you believe about God? Do you believe that He is a good good Father who always has the best in mind for His children? Have you fallen for the enemy’s lies? Have you given up on prayer because of something that has happened in life?
III. WAS JESUS PROMISING A HEALTH AND WEALTH PRAYER?
11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Background: This passage has been abused and misused by people, especially TV evangelists in our era – “God wants you to have health and wealth.” Nothing is wrong with health and wealth and you can pray for those things as well but there’s more that God wants to do in your life and through your life than health and wealth. For example, think about Job and Moses and Ruth and Paul and so many others in the Bible who endured tragedy and pain and wants and needs for a greater purpose. Good gifts are not just more self-gratifying pleasures but the kingdom of God.
God is a Heavenly Father who knows what is best for His children and He loves us too much to answer any and every prayer. We have a very limited and finite view of life but God sees the big picture. Only eternity will show how good of a Father He really is!
Think about Jesus – Philippians 2 7 but (Jesus) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Application: What are you asking God for? Are you willing to say with Jesus – “Not my will but Yours be done.” Are you willing to pray again with confidence in the nature of God? Are you saved? If not, pray that prayer now and ask Jesus to save you
TO JUDGE OR NOT TO JUDGE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This morning we are back in our series on the Sermon on the Mount and the message is titled “TO JUDGE OR NOT TO JUDGE.”
Matthew 7 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Bridge: Last week I came across this quote – “Before you start to judge me, step into my shoes and walk the life I’m living and if you get as far as I am, just maybe you will see how strong I really am.” On one hand, the quote is very inspiring. “You can’t judge me unless you understand what I’ve been through and when you understand what I’ve been through, you’ll see why I am the way I am. And, I am tough.” But, on the second and third reading, that quote has some troubling implications. It seems to be saying – “There is no right or wrong. I am the way I am because of what I’ve been through. You can’t tell me how to live my life. Life has made me tough enough to do whatever I want.” Sadly and frighteningly, this is how most people think today, even Christians. Some form of this quote has been thrown in my face many a times. Should we judge or should we not?
Context: In the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus gives us the proper balance between when to judge and when not to. Unfortunately, this passage is often invoked to forbid all judgment. Ever heard someone say – “Don’t be judging nobody because Jesus told us to get the log out of your own eye first.” That’s not true. Yes, Jesus did warn us to judge ourselves first but He never told us to stop judging completely. In fact, in verse 5, Jesus called someone a “Hypocrite!” That’s a judgment. The point is that we are to confront sin but with the right motives, to help and not to condemn the person.
Question: First things first – Have you examined yourself lately? Is there sin in your life? Have you repented? Do you confront others about their sins? Do you do it with the right motives? Are you saved? You can judge or not judge but there is a day of judgment coming for all of us. Will you able to stand before the Judge of all the earth?
3 conditions regarding when to judge and when not to:
I. IF YOU CAN’T TAKE IT, DON’T DISH IT.
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
Background: What Jesus is saying here is a general truth – “Don’t try to criticize and condemn somebody if you’re not able to take it.” Have you heard someone say about a person – “He can dish it but he can’t take it”? What are they saying – “When the tables are turned, this person does not like it.” What Jesus is saying here is – “When you judge someone, you are entering the judgment zone where you are under the spotlight as well. If you don’t want the spotlight on you, don’t turn the spotlight on someone else.”
What happens many times is that some of us are better at covering our faults, at making our case, at bullying the other person, and at cornering them. Maybe it’s our personality or maybe we have seen one too many Matlocks. Maybe the other person is not as adept at defending himself or herself and they back off and you win. By the way, Christians – if all else fails, get spiritual. Start quoting the bible. Even make up some stuff. The other person doesn’t know. After all, what matters is that they are condemned and you are safe. You win and they lose. It happens a lot in marriages and churches. Jesus anticipated this and so he adds in verse 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. Meaning: You may win against your helpless weak opponent but someone else has entered the courtroom and it’s God. He sees you through and through. You can’t outsmart Him. He will turn your own arguments over your head. He will treat you the same way you are treating others.
Illustration: On the last day of camp, the kids are allowed to have a shaving cream fight. They have to be hosed off before they can jump into the creek or the pool. It’s funny how kids tattle. Kid – “He still has some cream in his hair.” Counselor – “Where are you going?” Kid – “Into the pool.” Counselor – “You also have shampoo in your hair.”
Jesus demonstrated this in John 8 when the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. What was their question? 4 “…Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” They were not only judging the woman but also Jesus! Jesus ignored them but they persisted. Finally, He stood up and said to them, 7 “…He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” The Bible says they “being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. The point is this – “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it.” One day you will have to stand before the judge of all the earth. James 4 11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
Application: Are you that person who can dish it but can’t take it? Who have you been trying to bully? Who have you been trying to corner? Do you realize that one day you’ll have to give an account to that Great Judge?
II. IF YOU HAVEN’T LOOKED IN THE MIRROR, DO THAT FIRST.
3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?
Background: Of course, Jesus is using hyperbole, exaggeration to make a point. It’s a form of humor – “You are so concerned about the tiny speck of dirt in your brother’s eye but you cannot see the telephone pole sticking out of your eye!” What Jesus is saying here is “If you haven’t looked in the mirror, do that first.” What happens many times is that some of us have been so focused on the faults and weaknesses of others that we have failed to examine our own faults and weaknesses. We see the lives of others in black and white and ours in color. As someone once said – “We judge ourselves by our intentions but others by their behavior.” They did this, this, and this wrong but I did this for this reason, this for that reason, and this for the other reason.
Now people have used this passage to claim that you cannot judge others. I think Jesus anticipated this and He says in verse5 Hypocrite!” That’s ironic to me that Jesus is telling us not to judge but He is judging! The point is– Jesus is not against judging sin or pointing out right from wrong. He is against doing that with hypocrisy, with sin in our own hearts. Listen to what He says, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The point here is not that you cannot judge someone else. The point is first clean your own eye so you can see clearly enough to clean someone else’s eye.
There’s also something deeper here that we cannot afford to miss. Both the speck and the plank are made out of wood. What I have found is this – if you are searching for the sawdust of sin in someone’s life, most of the time, it is because you are trying to hide a long thick heavy plank of sin in your own life. Listen carefully – When you become harsh over a speck in someone’s life, take it as a warning sign that there might be something of the same texture and make but much bigger in your life. The best example of this is when David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah murdered. God was displeased and sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. Nathan told him a story of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had many flocks and herds but the poor man had one little lamb. The lamb had grown up with his children and he took care of it as his child. One day the rich man had a visitor and instead of taking a lamb from his large herd, he took the poor man’s only lamb. 2 Samuel 12 5 So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! 6 And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” In other words, David was ready to string up a man over a lamb while he’d just stolen a man’s wife and had him murdered!
Application: How do you judge others? Do you judge yourself on a curve, against others? Or, do you judge yourself by God’s standard of perfection?
III. IF YOU HAVEN’T COUNTED THE COST, SEE IF IT’S WORTH IT.
Matt. 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”
Background: This is one of the toughest verses in the Bible. It seems as if it has been wrongly placed at this point in the Sermon on the Mount. What is Jesus talking about? When we read it carefully in its context, it makes all the sense in the world. Here’s what Jesus is saying – “Suppose you have passed the first two conditions. (1. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it. 2. If you haven’t looked in the mirror, do that first.) You are ready to judge someone.” In other words, you’re willing to stand in the judgment zone and your heart is pure before God. The next question is “Is it worth it?” “Will they receive it well?” Here “dogs” are not like your pets but like the wild dogs that would scavenge outside the city walls. You could hear them growling at each other and anyone passing by. What Jesus is saying is “Don’t try to confront and judge people who will growl at you and try to bite your head off.” How about the “pigs?” Don’t think of pigs here as the nice farm pigs like Wilbur. These are like those that run around and eat out of the garbage. They can’t tell the difference between a rotten cabbage and a necklace of pearls. It reminds us of Proverbs 23:9 “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words.” Also Proverbs 9 7 “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. 8 Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”
Application: Have you counted the cost of trying to judge someone? Do you see hope in their life? Do you see that they will receive it well?
The person who can help us the most with all of this is the Holy Spirit. He knows when we need to be in the judgment zone. He knows when we need to look in the mirror. He knows when we need to back off and let God do the work instead of us.
Romans 14:10 “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Will you be able to stand before the judgment seat of Christ?
If you are lost, your hour of judgment is now. Receive Christ today so you won’t have to stand before the judge of all the earth.
ALLEGIANCE TO ONE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This morning we are in part 4 of our series on Anxiety called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and today’s message is titled “ALLEGIANCE TO ONE.”
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Overall Background: As I was preparing for this sermon, I’ll be honest with you, I was tempted to skip over it or just lump it with the next passage and move on. Usually, I even check to see what great preachers have said on a passage but very few actually preached on it. But, the more I studied it and the more I prayed over it, the more I realized that the Holy Spirit was calling me to preach on it. There’s something in this sermon not just for those struggling with worry and anxiety but also for every believer in Jesus Christ.
Here’s the gist of the message: No one is totally free. Everyone has a master. We were designed by God to serve Him. But, if we don’t serve Him, we will serve someone or something in our lives. Furthermore, we cannot serve Him and also serve someone or something else. “No one can serve two masters.” But, if we do serve Christ (the image of the invisible God) and Christ alone, He promises to exchange our chains and shackles for a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. He promises to upgrade our status from servants to friends and He will do something for us that no religion or movement will ever do – He will actually come down to serve us!
All that we will see in a moment but here’s the question – Is Christ the Master of your life? If not, who is? Is it a person? Is it money? Is it a habit? Is it a bad experience? Come to Christ and He will set you free. Are you sharing your allegiance to Christ with someone else? What does this have to do with worry and anxiety? They are simply the symptoms of a divided life. Again, we’re not talking about anxiety attacks and panic attacks but common worry. Are you saved? If not, then today is the day.
3 things are critical to understand this message:
I. A MASTERLESS LIFE IS A DELUSION.
“No one can serve two masters…”
Background: If you read that statement carefully, there’s something that Jesus is taking for granted – “Everyone has a master. You just can’t have two.” You often hear people say – “No ones gonna tell me how to live my life. I am a free person. I can do whatever I want.” Not true. God never designed us to be masterless. He designed us to serve Him. The word for “Master” is the Greek word “kurios” which we find over 8000 times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX). Over 6120 of those are for “Yahweh,” the name for God and over 425 are for “Adonia,” another name for God. The idea of God as our Master is throughout the Old Testament. It goes all the way back to Genesis 2:8 “The LORD God (Master)planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.” What was his job? It was not to loaf around the garden, lie down, and eat grapes but “tend and keep” the garden. Both Adam and Eve failed in their assignment and stole from their Master. The point is that right from the start, God’s relationship with us was a Master-Servant relationship. I don’t have time to go through every reference of God as our Master in the Old Testament. Let me just give a couple:
When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, what did He tell him to say? Exodus 4 22 “…Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve” The word for “serve” in both Hebrew and the Greek translation is more than just worship. “Latreo” has the idea of a hired servant. God did not say – “Pharaoh, set the people free so they can do whatever they want to do” but “set them free so they can go back to working for me.”
Then God warned them that if they didn’t serve Him, they would serve their enemies. Deuteronomy 28:48 “therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.”
For time’s sake, let’s jump over to Malachi 1:6 where God says to His people – “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts.”
Here’s the point: Human beings were never designed to be unaccountably free. God designed us to serve Him and He warned us – if we didn’t serve Him, we would serve someone or something. What’s happening in America today? People want freedom for freedom’s sake. The cry of the hour is “I can do whatever I want. You can’t tell me how to live.” What’s the result? Just the way God told His people Israel – “If you won’t serve me, you will serve your enemies.” People all around us are in bondage to sin, to addiction, to immorality, to fears, to doubts, and to the Devil himself.
But there’s something very important that we need to understand – When Jesus came, the title of God as Master (kurios) was applied to Him. Here are a couple of examples:
When Satan tried to tempt Jesus, He quoted the Old Testament and said in Matthew 4:7 “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”
When people gave Him false devotion, He warned them in Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
I can go on and on but Paul sums up the belief of the early church in Philippians 2 10 “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Application: The question is not “Is God your Master?” but “Is Jesus your Master?” Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
II. A DIVIDED LIFE IS A DISASTER.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”
Background: Let me clarify – This verse is not against working two part time jobs or doing a double major in college. What Jesus is saying is – Don’t straddle the fence. Don’t vacillate between serving God one day and serving the world the next. Don’t be wishy washy with one day all “Jesus Jesus” and the next day “full of the Devil.” Make up your mind. If you don’t, then you’ll either hate Christ and love the world or you will long for the world and grudgingly follow Christ. I know some Christians like that and they’re guilt ridden, conflicted, and a poor testimony for Christ. In essence, their life is a disaster.
Jesus goes on to add – “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon is an Aramaic word for money and property. By the way, there was no god named Mammon back then. Jesus was simply personifying money to point out that money is like a living breathing master who constantly demands our time and devotion. Isn’t that true? For just a little more, people will do anything. Please don’t misunderstand – Making money is not evil. God is not against you being successful. He is not anti-rich. In fact, I know many godly people who are very successful. Having said that, I don’t know why but money has always been and will always try to compete for your time and devotion to God.
Here’s a question: Right this moment, is Christ first in your life or is Money first in your life? Do you seek after Him just as much as you seek after the Almighty Dollar? Again, please don’t misunderstand – I know there are times we have to work extended hours and our spiritual life seems to be on the fly. All of us go through those busy seasons in life but if your season has turned into our status quo, you’re serving two Masters.
How does all this connect with anxiety and worry? They are simply symptoms of a divided life. Again, I’m not talking about anxiety attacks and panic attacks. But stress in a Christian’s life is a by-product of divided loyalty, when we’re trying to please God and also someone or something else. Paul says in Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” We may have earthly masters but ultimately only Christ is our Master.
Application: How is your life? Are you sharing your allegiance to Christ with someone else? Is it the Almighty Dollar? How is your walk with God right this moment?
III. A SERVANT’S LIFE IS THE DESTINATION.
Background: For this last point, I want us to step back from the immediate context of Matthew 6:24 and look at the bigger picture, the fuller meaning. What happens when we come to Jesus and give Him our sole allegiance? Listen to Matthew 11 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”Meaning: When Christ becomes your Master, He exchanges your life of chains and shackles for a life of true freedom and joyful service. But there’s more – only Christ is that master that once you give Him your total allegiance, He renegotiates your contract and upgrades your status. John 15:15No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.Meaning: When you serve Jesus as your Master, He doesn’t leave you outside slaving in the cold or the heat for Him but invites you in to be His friend. A Master may keep some things secret from his servant but there are no secrets between friends.But there’s even more – He also changes His status from the Master to the servant.
Jesus demonstrated this on the night when He was betrayed. If you remember, there was an argument among the disciples as to who was the greatest among them. Jesus being God in flesh knew about their discussion and their thoughts. So before the Feast of the Passover, He stood up from the table, took a towel and a basin full of water, and began to wash the feet of His disciples. Imagine the stunned look on their faces. No one spoke a word but Peter in John 13 6 “Lord, are You washing my feet?…8 …You shall never wash my feet!”Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Peter’s typical response – “Wash me all over.” Jesus told him that wasn’t the point and when He was done He sat down and listen to what he said – 12“…Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example…16 …I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master…17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. And Luke adds in 22:27 “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”
This is true biblical Christianity. What is being propagated and disseminated in many churches is a Christianity that says, “I am the best and I deserve the best. God better bless me.” Is it any wonder that the world remains unimpressed and unmoved by us? To the contrary, I believe that we have something that no religion or movement can ever replicate – We have a God who comes down to serve us and then tells us to go do the same. What will happen if we do that in our homes, our marriages, our churches, and our communities?
Is Jesus your Savior? Is He your Master?I Corinthians 12:3 “…no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Today we are in part 3 of our series on worry and anxiety from the Sermon on the Mount called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and today’s message is titled – “PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE.”
Matthew 6 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Overall Background: On first reading, the passage we just read seems to be out of context. It’s as if Jesus lost his train of thought and instead of talking about worry and anxiety, He got distracted and went off on some tangent about the lamp and the eye. But, when we study this passage carefully, we realize that Jesus did not lose His train of thought. He did not go off on some rabbit chase. In fact, He was very much on the subject of worry and anxiety. Here’s what Jesus was saying: Daily we are bombarded with messages and stimulus. If our eye is good, which means our focus is on God and on the right priorities and our motives are pure, then we will let only light go inside of us. If our eye is evil, which means our focus is on the things of this world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, then we will allow darkness to enter in. What does this have to do with worry and anxiety? Worry and anxiety are simply symptoms of the darkness down below. (Keep in mind – I’m not referring to anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Go back and listen to the first sermon.) But common worry and anxiety are a manifestation of what’s happening deep below. To cure what is in here, you have to purify your eyes, your focus, and your motives. To do that you need the Holy Spirit of God to apply the Word of God and give you the same focus and the same motives as the Son of God, who was always full of light. He was never worried and never anxious at any point in His life on earth.
Question: Do you struggle with worry and anxiety? How is your eye, your focus? How are your motives? How do you handle the stimulus that comes your way each moment? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Without the Holy Spirit in your life, your motives will remain questionable. There can be no divine light in your life. By the way, even Christians, unless you are submitting daily to the Word of God and the Spirit of God, you will also be full of darkness.
There are 3 questions that we will answer in order to understand this passage:
I. WHAT IS THE LAMP OF THE BODY?
22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”
Background: “The lamp of the body” is a very strange statement. The only way we can make any sense of it is by looking for other places where Jesus talked about the lamp. We don’t have to go very far because he talks about it in this very Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5 14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Also, the parallel passage in Luke 11 clarifies it some more – 33“No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye.
The light that is in us is the presence of God. It is the holiness of God. It is the nature of God. It is the only good that is there in this dark sinful world. When our lights are bright, they radiate out and impact those around us. Jesus tells us not to hide this light. It results in good works. It leads lost people to glorify the Father in heaven. It is not hidden by circumstances.
Illustration: On a mission trip to the Yucatan Jungle in Mexico we were invited to go by the home of an elderly couple by their son. The man was one time pastor of a church in the village but too sick and aged to do much now. We walked in and saw this couple lying in their bed. The son asked if we would sing and so we sang in English and our local partners sang in Spanish. Before the chorus was finished, they were sitting up in their bed and singing with us. The glow had returned!
Question: How is your glow this morning? Is it shining brightly? Is it shining dimly? Or is it out? Has the light ever been lit in your life? John talks about how to have this light all throughout his gospel:
John 1 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
John 12:46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.
Have you ever received Jesus, the light of the world, in your life?
II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EYE?
22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”
Background: This is one of the hardest verses in the Bible. Scholars have debated back and forth over the significance of the eye in this passage. We all know that the eye is more than the organ that enables us to see what is around us. Ever since ancient times it was believed that our eyes also reflect what is inside of us. As someone said, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Cicero (Roman philosopher and orator who lived 50 years before Christ) said, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” You can fake a smile and pretend all is well but your eyes will betray what’s really going on inside. Sometimes you can even tell if a person is friendly or mean, generous or greedy just by looking into their eyes. If you face a scary situation or an exciting situation, your pupils will begin to dilate involuntarily. Scientists have even discovered that the eyes can “reveal the presence of broader disorders like heart disease, stroke threats, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.” (The Economist, July 2015)
All that is true but that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Listen again to verse 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…” It’s not “the eye is the mirror of the soul.” The direction of light flow is outside in and not inside out. The eye sheds light inward and directs the decisions we make with our bodies. We may have trouble understanding this but Jewish people in the time of Jesus did not, especially when He said in verse 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Let me give you a couple of examples. In Deuteronomy 15 God had given explicit commands to His people to release their indebted brother in the seventh year, the Year of Release. God knew the human nature and so listen to verse 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.” Here the person sees his poor brother in bondage and instead of rejoicing that his year of release has come, he has a cruel and wicked thought in his heart. If I let him go, I’ll have to be out there sweating in the heat. I can’t do that. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and sin has entered in. Another example from Proverbs 28:22 “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”
Here a person sees riches and instead of praying, “God, what is your purpose? Guide me. Help me to keep you first,” he just chases after money. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and greed has set in. In Matthew 20 Jesus Himself uses the phrase “evil eye” in his parable of the landowner who hired laborers at different hours of the day and when time came to pay them, he paid 1 denarius to all of them. The ones who came early complained about not getting more than the ones who came at the eleventh hour. Listen to what the landowner said to them, 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ Here the early workers seeing that they didn’t get any more, instead of rejoicing over getting their due wage, they complained about those who came at the eleventh hour and call the landowner unfair. Now their eyes have become evil and the sin of ingratitude has set in.
Illustration: Many years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC annual meeting. We were having a wonderful time. Different people came to the stage and preached and gave reports. Then, this one man came to the stage. He wasn’t much older than me. He spoke and people clapped. Just then a small thought went through my mind – “Why him and not me?” The convention was over and we toured the state. As we were headed home, Nicole asked me – “Is something wrong?” I answered – “No” but I knew that wasn’t true. It took several days for me to finally listen to the Holy Spirit. I had allowed the sin of envy to enter in me and bring darkness. I had to repent and the light returned.
“Your focus and your motives direct what enters in you. If they are pure and sincere and set upon the things of God, you will allow God’s light to flow through you but if they are evil and wicked, you will be full of darkness and sin and despair.”
Question: What is your first response to the good and the evil around you? What have you allowed inside that has brought darkness in your life? What is blocking God’s light in your life? Have you ever asked God to purify your motives?
III. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY?
22 “…If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
Background: Greek word that Jesus used for “good.” It’s actually the word a`plouj, which translates “single.” It has the idea of purity and sincerity. James uses it in its adverbial form in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all sincerely and without reproach…” Meaning: When God gives you wisdom, He doesn’t have any ulterior motives. Paul uses it in its noun form inRomans 12:8 where he tells the Christians in Rome to give but give “with sincerity…”Meaning: Don’t have ulterior motives in your giving. So when Jesus says in verse 22 “…If therefore your eye is single,” what He’s really saying is “If your eye is pure or sincere, then your whole body will be full of light…” In other words, if your motives are pure, it will only bring light inside.
Illustration: It attacks the best of us. Billy Graham in his book on the Beatitudes talks about in his early days he would see two people having a great time or laughing and he would feel that it had to do with him or “why wasn’t he included?” He repented of that.
Here’s the point: Worry and Anxiety are a by-product of darkness. The only way to counteract is when the stimulus comes, let the Holy Spirit guide your response. He will make your motives pure and sincere. In turn, what goes in will be light and not darkness. Then what come out will be joy and gratitude not worry and anxiety.
23 “…If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” This can be taken in 2 different ways – Either, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful is that darkness inside of you? Or, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful must the darkness be in the lost world. Either way, turn on the light!
Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your motives and let the light of Christ flow through you. Are you saved? Invite Christ to be your light today.
GAIN BY GIVING AWAY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: We’re in our series called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is giving us life principles on how to deal with anxiety and worry. Today’s message is titled – “GAIN BY GIVING AWAY.”
Matthew 6 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Overall Background: The passage we just read has been misunderstood quite often. Some people think that in this passage Jesus was getting on to the rich who lay up treasures on earth. Others think that He was warning against having material things in life instead of heavenly things. Still others think that He was really talking about the unpredictability of life where moth, rust, and thieves come unannounced and destroy and steal. To understand what this passage is really about, we have to understand it in its context. When we keep reading, we realize that Jesus was building His argument leading up to verse 25 where He says, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…” In other words, “I am saying all this to you so that you may learn how not to worry in life.”
Here’s the point of this message: Worry or Anxiety has nothing to do with your bank balance. It has to do with attitude of your heart. When your heart is in hoarding and guarding what you have, worry and anxiety will follow. When your heart is in letting go, sharing and helping the less fortunate, then there is assurance and peace and joy.
The question this morning is not “How much money you have?” but “What is the status of your heart?” Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? Are you hoarding or are you sharing? In which bank are you making deposits? The earthly or the heavenly? The earthly will fail but the heavenly will give eternal dividends. There’s never a run on that bank. Are you saved? You’ll have only a partial understanding of today’s message unless the Holy Spirit helps you. Only those who know Christ have the Spirit.
To understand today’s message, we have to understand 3 things.
I. WHAT IS THE HEART?
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Background: The Greek word for heart is “cardia” from which we get our English words cardiologist, cardiogram, or cardiac arrest. Since the time of Homer, the heart came to represent the seat of our emotions and our mental faculties, to some extent. But in the Hebrew Bible and especially the Greek translation (LXX), the word “cardia” had a much deeper meaning. It meant our emotions, mind, inner life, will, and the very center of being a human. In fact, it is found over 900 times in the LXX. Here are some examples:
Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Meaning: Love God from your essence and not just your outward actions.
Exodus 7:13 “And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.”Meaning: He made up his mind to disobey God.
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”Meaning: God, cleanse from the inside out.
Psalm 27 David says, 13 “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. 14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart…” Meaning: If you trust God, He will strengthen your will and your perspective on life.
So also in the New Testament:
Matthew 15:19 Jesus says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Meaning: The source of sin is inside of us not outside.
Romans 5:5 Paul says, “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Meaning: God begins His work deep within our being.
Here’s the point: The heart is the indefinable, indescribable inner life, and the center of our personality. It’s what makes us who we are. It’s the location of God’s work and interaction with us. Our heart can be either full of God and set on the things of God or it can be full of self and set on things of this world. Your heart is who you are.
Application: Where is your heart? Is it full of Christ? Or, is it full of sin? If you haven’t received Christ as your Savior, you are full of sin. The solution is given in Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Meaning: Believe in Jesus inwardly and not just outwardly. Let Him come into your life.
II. HOW DO YOU STORE UP TREASURE IN HEAVEN?
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Background: People have all kinds of ideas as to how to store up treasures in heaven – doing things for God, studying the Bible, praying more, serving in church, and winning the lost. None of these things are wrong and we should be doing them but that’s not what Jesus meant when He told us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. To understand what He meant, we need to compare the parallel passages in Luke that give us some additional information. Luke 12 33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In other words, to store up treasures in heaven, you need to help the poor and the needy. Don’t hoard your money but help the less fortunate and you will start making deposits in the heavenly bank.
Why didn’t Matthew include this clarification by Jesus in his gospel? Because he was writing to a predominantly Jewish audience who already knew this principle. In an apocryphal work known by Ben Sira, which was written two centuries before Christ, it says in Sirach 299 Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty. 10 Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost. 11 Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold. So also in Tobit, another apocryphal work written two centuries before Christ, it says in Tobit 4 9 So you will be laying up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity. 10 For charity delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness; 11 and for all who practice it charity is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High. Please don’t misunderstand – these are not scriptures, but they help us understand how the people in the time of Jesus understood “storing up treasures in heaven.”
In Matthew 19 Jesus explained this very clearly. Do you remember when the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked Him how to have eternal life? Jesus told him to keep the commandments. To which he replied, “Already done it since I was a kid. What’s next?” Mark says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Meaning: He had compassion on him and said in 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, (Mark adds take up your cross) follow Me.” The point is this – giving what you have to help those less fortunate than yourself and needy is storing up treasures in heaven.
By the way, Paul says the same thing to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6 17Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
Application: What is your attitude towards what you have? Are you hoarding it or are you sharing it? Let me clarify – sharing it does not mean that you go around throwing your money indiscreetly to anyone or everyone; sharing does not mean that you don’t plan and budget for your own life, family, and future. It simply means that you are willing to become the hands of Jesus.
III. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY?
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
Background: Just like in our world today, imported fabrics were very expensive in the ancient world, especially woollen clothes that had been processed to look bright white or dyed purple. So also silk was like gold in the time of the Romans. But just like today, moth larvae could get into the closet and destroy those expensive clothes. But it was not just clothes but also scrolls, books, and title deeds could be destroyed. How about “rust?” The Greek word is “brosis” which is not really about rust or corrosion but a better translation would be “eaters.” It was a reference to plagues of insects or birds destroying crops and pastures and eating food that was stored away. Then come thieves that break in and steal.
For e.g. I have talked to people who had their home broken into. I asked them how they felt. They felt violated, unsafe, paranoid, anxious, afraid, and the list goes on and on.
What Jesus is saying is – “You can either hoard it and hang on to it and the subtle criminals of life can steal it from under your noses or you can give it to help the less fortunate and put it in the heavenly account where moths, eaters, and thieves cant reach. The choice is yours.” James says the same thing in James 5 1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.
To deal with worry and anxiety, put your wealth where no one can touch it. Not only that but it’s a bank that has eternal dividends. “There’s no U-haul behind a hearse but you can UPS it. “Unending Possession Sharing.”
Illustration: Many people don’t know but John Wesley was a very rich man. We only think of him as a godly man, travelling on horseback, founder of Methodism. He made a lot of money from the books and the hymns that he wrote. When he died, he had only 28 pounds to his name. What many people don’t realize is that he gave all his money away, at one time, as much as 40,000 pounds. Let me ask you – “Did he die rich or poor?”
By the way, this is not just about money but knowledge and love and everything.
Application: Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? How much are you giving and sharing with those who are in need and those who are less fortunate than yourself? Are you saved
PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This morning we’re starting a brand new series from the Sermon on the Mount called “Putting Anxiety to Work.” So many have messaged me and told me how much they’re looking forward to this series! I am looking forward to it as well!
Matthew 6 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Overall Background: We’ve come to the section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about anxiety. In fact, between verses 25-34, 6 times He uses the Greek word merimnaw, which can be translated as anxiety, worry, or care. The fact that Jesus used the word so many times implies that He was talking about something more than just casual concern. All of us have those but the repetition tells us that He had something deeper in mind. It’s also interesting to me that Jesus talked more about anxiety or worry in His sermon than He did about prayer. Could it be that it was a big issue for people back then? We will see more on that in a few minutes but here’s a question: If Jesus unabashedly discussed this subject, why is the church so reluctant to talk about it? Did you know that according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million Americans or 18% of the population suffers from clinical anxiety disorder? According to surveys by Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 6.8 million Americans or 3.1% of the population suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), 6 million or 2.7% struggle with Panic Disorder, 15 million or 6.8% struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder, 19 million or 8.7% struggle with Specific Phobias, 7.7 million or 3.5% struggle with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the list goes on. According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2006, each year Americans lose altogether 321 million days of work due to anxiety and depression, which ends up costing the economy $50 billion each year. By the way, women more than men face anxiety and 1 out of 8 children are affected by it as well. I can go on and on but the question is why aren’t we speaking on this subject when people and loved ones all around us are struggling? Jesus did!
Question: Are you facing anxiety of some form in your life? Do you know someone who is struggling with it? How do you view anxiety? Do you view it as something that can just be shaken off? Do you view it as a result of some sin? Let me give you my approach in these messages – Much of what the Bible condemns is “worry anxiety,” which is more than casual concerns but not what we know today as “anxiety disorders.” In fact, it is hard to find “anxiety disorders” in the Bible but there are many powerful and life-changing principles in God’s Word, especially the Sermon on the Mount, which can help us deal with those anxieties. In fact, many ideas that are being sold in self-help books and bestsellers are actually found in the most distilled and pure form in the Bible. It’s like buried treasure in your backyard waiting to be found! But before we start digging, let me say a couple of things upfront – First, some anxiety problems do require antianxiety medications and tranquilizers. That’s not a sin but medication alone will not solve your problems; second, this is not a psychology class on anxiety. My purpose is to help you have a balanced biblical perspective that will enable you to live Christ-honoring, joyful, and productive lives.
Before we begin, let me ask you – “Are you saved?” Do you know Christ as your Savior?
Today’s message is the introduction to this series with several important questions:
I. WHAT IS ANXIETY?
To understand it, we need to distinguish it from 2 other words: worry and stress. People often confuse them. Let’s look at each of them:
Worry – It is more than casual concern. It comes from the Old Germanic word “wurgen,” which meant, “to strangle.” Later in Middle English it took on the meaning of “seize by the throat.” At its core, worrying is refusing to trust God and trying to live independently of Him. It’s a sin. The Bible repeatedly condemns it. In His parable of the Sower or soils, Jesus said in Matthew 13:22 “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” The same Greek word merimnaw is used but the idea is one of “worry.” So also I Peter 5:7 “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” The Greek word switches from merimnaw to melei, which has the idea that “God takes interest in you.”
Stress – There are many ways experts define stress but the best definition that I’ve come across is that “Stress is any situation where a person feels that they don’t have the adequate resources to deal with their circumstances.” The situation may be physical threat like death or emotional threat like divorce or breakups or financial threats like deadlines or bottom lines. Life is full of stressful situations, especially in our world today. Did you know that it was back in 1983 that the phrase “stressed out” entered our vocabulary? And would you agree that life is more stressful today than it was 30 years ago? Dr. Archibald Hart in his book The Anxiety Cure” says, “Human beings were designed for camel travel, but most people are now acting like supersonic jets.”
Now comes Anxiety – Again, many definitions are out there but the most balanced one I have found is by Dr. Archibald Hart (Senior professor of psychology, dean emeritus at Fuller Theological Seminary, a licensed psychologist, etc.) – “Anxiety is a disease of stress.” He goes on to say – “It is clearly the consequence of too much stress acting on your highly vulnerable brain chemistry. And if you have inherited a weakness in your brain’s chemistry, you will have a much lower threshold for tolerating anxiety than others.” He even gives this formula – “High adrenaline, caused by overextension and stress, depletes the brain’s natural tranquilizers and sets the stage for high anxiety.” What are the brain’s natural tranquilizers? God has so designed us that when we face stress, there are natural tranquilizers in our brains, brain chemicals known as “neurotransmitters” that keep us sane in the face of stresses in life. Some people call them the “happy messengers” – Serotonin, Noradrenaline, and Dopamine. Stress depletes our natural tranquilizers. In essence, anxiety is not that something bad has entered the brain. It’s actually something good is now absent from the brain or it’s running low. By the way, it usually affects the tough people.
II. WHAT IS ANXIETY DISORDER?
Now, please don’t walk out and start telling people that you have an anxiety disorder and you need some medication. Most people don’t. Let me clarify a few things again:
Anger is not anxiety disorder. You are facing a threatening situation and you go on the attack. It may be wrong, depending on the situation, but that’s not anxiety. Sometimes the Bible tells us as in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry, and do not sin” and then inEphesians 4:31 tells us “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you…”
Fear is not anxiety disorder. You are facing a threatening situation and you retreat. That’s normal. In fact, some fear is actually commanded. Psalm 34:9 “Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.”
Panic is not anxiety disorder. Panic attack is a body’s smoke alarm that is warning you that something is not right. What does it feel like? According to the American Psychiatric Association 1994, typical symptoms include “pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, dispersonalization, numbness, tingling, chills, or hot flashes.” Some of you have shared with me that it feels as if you are having a heart attack or going crazy. Your brain is trying to tell you that have too much stress in your life. It’s time to take some actions and make some significant life changes. When does it become a disorder? When they are recurrent, unexpected, and you become preoccupied with them and start making significant changes in your lifestyle.
There are other types of Anxiety Disorders like “event specific,” “phobia induced,” “ruminative or focused attention,” or “generalized anxiety.” As I mentioned earlier, this is not a psychology class. My purpose is to simply introduce this subject and educate the church.
III. WHERE DOES THE CHURCH COME IN?
For anxiety disorder, you will need professional help. You may need medication to bring the natural tranquilizers back to their proper level but that’s not enough. This is where the church body is vital. There are 2 other ways that the church can help –
Connecting with others facing similar struggles. Communication with others who have similar convictions and have gone through similar struggles helps. We are planning on starting something like this soon. Let me know if you are interested.
Biblical Preaching: Even though the Bible doesn’t talk about “anxiety disorders,” it has much to say about how to reduce stress and start living a balanced life. The reason I chose to do this series is because in His Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us how to do this. In Matthew 6:21 He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, ask yourself – “what is driving you?” Is money driving you? It will drive you mad. Money is not evil. It’s a great servant but a horrible master. Matthew 6:22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Is there darkness inside, then it’s time to check the windows of your souls.Matthew 6:24“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other…” How many things are controlling your life?Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? When was the last time you took time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation?
I can go on and on. The point is this – preaching brings these truths to the minds and the hearts of the people. Let me say something here – Sometimes people have a very dismissive attitude towards preaching. We don’t need any more preaching. It’s about connecting with each other in small settings and then going out there and doing ministry. I guess the Holy Spirit made a mistake in telling us that preaching is important.
Mark 3:14 “Then He (Jesus) appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach…”
Acts 8:4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Romans 10 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
2 Timothy 4:2Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
“Well…the preacher has to say that. That’s his bread and butter.” Not true. This is God’s appointed means by which He speaks to His people. This does not take away from personal bible study or small groups (we have Clearview Circles and you should join them). Preaching is the way He has chosen to speak through earthen vessels. This is the hour when my best counseling takes place.
Are you saved? Are you ready for the life God wants you to live?
SECRET RELIGION – PRAYER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Today we’re in the second message in our series – “SECRET RELIGION.” Again, Jesus calls us to be the salt and light of the world but He warns us not to do it for public praise but for the praise of our Heavenly Father who sees in secret.
Matthew 6 5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Overall Background: In the passage we just read, once again, Jesus is taking the hypocrites to task. Just like in the previous passage where some people gave charity in order to be applauded by others, these people prayed in order to be admired by others. For e.g. Growing up we knew a man who made long prayers but it was all a show. He wanted people to flock around him and call him spiritual. Listen to what Jesus says – “For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.” In reality, these hypocrites were not praying to the Almighty but they were praying to their audience. What is the result? “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Meaning: some gullible people may love these prayers but God sees the heart. He knows the real intent and He refuses to answer all such prayers.
Listen carefully – Prayer is vital to our daily life. Prayer is central to our Christian life. Prayer is essential to everything that happens in this life. But, prayer that is misused and prayer that is misdirected is artificial before people and remains unanswered by God.
Question: Do you pray? Do you pray for show? Do you pretend to be more spiritual than you really are? Are your prayers going unanswered? Are you saved? Someone may say – “That’s right – God doesn’t hear the prayer of the unsaved.” Not true. Psalm 65:2 “O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come.” If a homeless child says, “I’m hungry,” will I say, “No. You’re not my child?” Of course not! But there’s a big difference in what I would do for my child. If he needed my heart, I would give it to him. God answers the prayer of everyone but that doesn’t mean that everyone is a child of God. If you’re lost, the first prayer He is longing to hear from you is the sinner’s prayer.
Today, we will learn 3 things from this passage about Secret Religion and Prayer:
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF TRUE PRAYER
5 “And when you pray…”
Background: Again, it is important to remember that Jesus did not say “if you pray” but “when you pray.” God expects us to pray to Him daily. Prayer, by definition is a daily conversation with God. It’s a daily dialogue with God in which we ask Him and receive from Him. Prayer has been around since the beginning of time.
Adam and Eve prayed everyday. It was a little different than our prayer today where Adam and Eve actually saw and felt God’s presence. We’re not sure if it was the actual presence in a human form or a strong whirlwind. Either way, God talked to them. (Genesis 3:8)
Abraham prayed overlooking Sodom and interceded for His nephew Lot. “God, would you destroy the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, and 10?” (Genesis 18)
———-I don’t have time to go through every example in the Old Testament———-
Moses The Bible says – “the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”(Exodus 33:11)
Hannah was “in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.”(I Samuel 1:10)
David prayed and many of his prayers are recorded in the psalms. One of the famous ones is Psalm 51, his prayer of repentance. Listen to verse 10“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Wow!
———-For time’s sake, let’s jump over to the New Testament————-
JesusMark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary
place; and there He prayed.” We went up the Mount of Beatitudes to film for the video and there was a cave on the side of the hill known as “Eremos cave” which is considered the place where Jesus often prayed on the mountainside.
————–I can go on and on—————-
The point is this – prayer is extremely important in the Christian life.
Jonathan Edwards said, “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith, as breathing is of life; and to say a man lives a life of faith, and yet lives a prayerless life, is every bit as inconsistent and incredible, as to say, that a man lives without breathing…he that lives a prayerless life, lives without God in the world.
Application: Is prayer important to you? Do you complain rather than pray? Do you make decisions and then pray or do you pray before you make any decisions?
II. THE DISTORTION OF TRUE PRAYER
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets,
Background: To understand this passage, we have to understand a little bit of the historical context. After the Jewish people had returned from their exile, they were serious about religion. So, the priests and the scribes created this elaborate ritual of prayer and liturgy. For example, the Daily Prayer was a list of petitions. Each of them opened with the statement “Blessed are You, O Lord” and ended with the statement “The whole world is full of His mercy.” All these petitions became standardized, even before the coming of Jesus, into 18 petitions known as “Shemoneh Esreh.” The first 3 expressed praise, the next 13 expressed requests (6 personal, 6 communal, and 1 that God would accept the requests), and the last 3 were thanksgiving. 3+13+3 =19. One more was added for the Jewish people of Babylon. You had to pray this prayer standing up. Hence, the daily prayer is also called “Amidah.” You had to pray facing the “Aron Kodesh,” the ark that houses the Torah scrolls. Observant Jewish people begin by taking 3 steps backwards and then 3 steps forwards. The steps backwards symbolize moving away from the material world and the steps forwards symbolize approaching the King of Kings. During the prayer there is a certain way of bowing – Baruckh Atha Adonai. Make sure to come back up when you say Adonai. Then when you say Kadosh, you have to get on your tippy toes about 3 times, with each time rising a little taller. Again, not everyone follows this. There are many variations. When it’s over, you bow to the left, then to the right, and then to the front and say – “He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace for us and all Israel, and let us say, Amen.” Then you had to do the same stuff after the prayer – take 3 steps backwards and 3 steps forwards.
How does this tie in with this passage? Listen again to what Jesus says, “For they love to pray standing in the synagogues…” Can you imagine Jesus watching this ritual with their tallit and tefillin and thinking, “What a show…You’ve lost the purpose of prayer. It has become a game as to who is more pious and who prays the loudest and who is more spiritual.” Then Jesus also adds, “For they love to pray…on the corners of the streets…” Jewish people were not expected to pray in the streets. What is happening here? They would be on their way to the synagogue and be running late. It was time for prayer and it must happen right now. So, they would stop in the street corner and start their Amidah. Many times they would be running late so they could stop at the street corner and put on their show. It was forbidden to interrupt praying the Amidah unless it was a safety issue or you had to go. It was forbidden to interrupt someone praying the Amidah. You can use your imagination how they would jab the listeners in their prayers – Looking at the shopkeepers – “God, we have sinned with greed!” Looking at the prostitute – “God, we have sinned with adultery.” Looking at the young people – “God, this generation is so foolish and immature and ungodly.” Jesus knew their hearts and confronted their hypocrisy. “You’ve lost the significance and seriousness of prayer. You are doing it for show. You are doing it to jab people. You have your reward. God will not answer your prayers.”
Having been to Israel twice, I’ve seen it many times. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting that they are doing it for show or jab others. But it’s not what prayer was originally intended to be. Someone asked me – “Doesn’t that just inspire you? Don’t you want to do it too?” Not really…it amuses me. Listen to Paul inColossians 2 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Ever seen a child play with shadows? It’s not inspiring, just amusing!Colossians 2:23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 3 1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Application: Are you pretending to be more spiritual than you really are? Are you more interested in what people think than what God thinks of you? Are you really praying to your Father in heaven when you bow your head?
III. THE RESTORATION OF TRUE PRAYER
6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Background: Now, don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not saying, “Don’t pray in public.” In He prayed in public many times. What He was saying is – “Before you pray in public, make sure you’ve prayed in private.” Public prayer is like the edifice, the visible part of a building, and private prayer is the foundation. You don’t start building an edifice before you have dug the foundation. Before you can jab the rich man for bring greedy or the prostitute for being lewd or the young soldier for being violent or the person who did something wrong to you, have you prayed for them in private?
Don’t use your public prayer to pat your pride or to settle your personal score. Instead, handle those issues in private with God. In fact, here are some questions to consider: Have you prayed for that person before you spoke about them in public? Have you prayed for the person before you tore them to pieces before others? Have you been to the secret place?
Coming up in a month we will be having a 24-hour prayer vigil. We will set up a room for prayer and you will be able to sign up a 30 min slot for prayer for yourself, your family, your children, our church, our community, our nation, and our world.
Do you believe we need it? How about starting right now? Are you saved
SECRET RELIGION – CHARITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This morning we begin a 3-part series through the Sermon on the Mount called “SECRET RELIGION.” Jesus calls us to be the Salt and the Light in this world but He wants us to do good secretly, covertly, privately, off the record.
Matthew 6 1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
Overall Background: The passage we just read marks a shift in Jesus’ focus in the Sermon on the Mount. In this new section Jesus turns His attention towards hypocrites and their hypocrisy. In fact, 3 times He uses the term “hypocrites” to describe people who do the right thing but for the wrong reasons. They give charity, they pray, and they fast but they do it for show. Jesus warns His listeners that although they need to do those things, they better do them with the right motives. What happens to people who serve God for popularity? 3 times we hear the phrase – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” In other words, God will reward people for their good deeds but not if they’ve already earned their rewards through self-adulation or public praise. If you go around patting your back or looking for praise, you have your reward. God has nothing for you.
Here’s the point – Jesus not only came to raise the bar of righteousness but He also came to raise the standard of evaluation. Meaning: it’s not just “what more you do for God?” but also “why do you do what more you do for God?” Listen carefully – Christian life is more than a bigger checklist. It’s also a deeper heart check.
Question: Why do you serve God? Why do you want to help people? What is your motive? If you’re motives are to impress others, you are cutting into your own reward. There’s no eternal glory for you. Are you saved? If not, there are no rewards for you.
2 things we will learn about Secret Religion and Charity:
I. GOD COMMANDS US TO SHOW CHARITY.
2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed,
Background: The first thing to remember is that Jesus said “when” and not “if.” It means Jesus assumed that His listeners would practice charity. Charity/helping the poor was a very important part of Jewish social life. Listen to the following passages from the Old Testament. They are long but worth hearing, especially in our generation:
Deuteronomy 15 7“If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you. 10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, (Meaning: it’s not just the content but also the intent.) because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’
If that wasn’t enough, listen toDeuteronomy 24 19 “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (That’s what Boaz did for Ruth.) 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing. Charity is not optional. It is mandatory.
Here’s more: Jesus did not lower this standard. In fact, He raised it. If you remember when the rich young ruler came to Him asking how to attain eternal life. First, Jesus questioned if he had kept all the commandments. When he replied yes, listen to what Jesus said to him in Matthew 19:21 “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But the young man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.
Unfortunately, in our country, the church forgot charity and the government had to take it up. Now, people complain when they see someone with EBT cards and food stamps. We fuss when we see people waiting for the check. This wouldn’t have been a problem if that church had studied her Bible and put it to practice!
Application: What do you think about charity? How do you respond when you see those who are less fortunate? Sure – you have to be careful but how do you respond when there’s a legitimate need? Are you generous or are you stingy? Do you walk around with a tunnel vision, only caring for you and yours or do you care for others?
II. PRIDE CAUSES US TO LOSE OUR REWARDS.
2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.
Background: Just when we think Jesus would give us some tips on how to recognize who really needs help and how to give selectively or how God promises to bless us when we give generously, He lays down a condition – “do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.”Meaning: Don’t advertise your charity for complements. God wants to acknowledge our giving. He wants to record it. He wants to reward us for being generous. But, when people say – “Yes – I want God’s blessing but I also want people’s praise.” That’s when God says – “I’m out.”
Why do people do that? It’s more than just a desire to be acknowledged. It is PRIDE. This week I was reading through C.S. Lewis’s classic work “Mere Christianity.” Amazingly, as I was prepping for this message, I happened to be reading his chapter titled, “The Great Sin” on Pride. I want to read a few quotes from this book. He begins with this remark – “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” Then Lewis goes to the root of pride – “Pride is essentially competitive…Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. (Lewis explains that other sins like anger, unforgiveness, adultery, stealing are nothing like pride.) Then he says – “It is a terrible thing that the worst of all vices can smuggle itself into the very center of our religious life…The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this (pride) does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes directly from Hell.” (By the way, it’s pride that got the Devil kicked out.)
How does all this connect with this message on “Secret Religion?” Why do people blow the trumpet when they give? Because they are announcing that they are so much more generous and benevolent and charitable than the other person. Check out how much I am giving more than the last guy. Now, I know someone is bound to say – “Yeah…I know so and so rich person gives so much. It’s all pride. They just want to prove that they are so much better and wealthier than the rest of us.” Here’s what I have found, in my experience – Usually, it’s not the rich who announce how much they are giving but the “not so rich.” It’s usually those who don’t have much who constantly make it a point to talk about how unselfish they were when they saw that man on the street and they bought him a meal or that homeless woman going through the trash dump and they gave her a hug and took her to the shelter. What these people are really saying is – “I am so much better than the rich man who drove by and didn’t give anything.” Guess what – you just got bit by the Pride bug! Because you don’t know if the rich man just gave away his millions to build that homeless shelter! Pride is not based on the content of our wallets. It’s based on the condition of our hearts.
Before you run out saying – “That’s right. I don’t care about anyone’s opinion. I am not doing it for them. I don’t need their praise.” Listen to what C.S. Lewis says – “The real…diabolical Pride comes when you look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you…the Proud man…says ‘Why should I care for the applause of the rabble as if their opinion were worth anything?…All I have done has been to satisfy my own ideals…the traditions of my family…because I’m That Kind of Chap (Guy)…the devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one. We must never try to be vain, but we must never call in our Pride to cure our vanity…” WOW! Isn’t Pride deceptive?
But listen – 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 4that your charitable deed may be in secret; Don’t misunderstand this analogy. It does not mean that this humble charitable person is flippant and careless, just dropping money everywhere. There’s something very deep in the analogy. Once again, back to C.S. Lewis – “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort…who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap (guy) who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all.” In other words, they are the type of person whose – “left hand does not know what their right hand is doing.”
What’s the result?4“…and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
There’s only one person who lived this perfectly, 100% – Jesus Christ. Listen to John 5 41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”
Secret Religion is when you neither look for nor look down on the approval of others but you constantly look to God. Your desire is to do all things to please God.
What will happen in this world if we begin to give charity and do it for the right reasons? What will happen if we stop looking for or looking down on the approval of others but only look for the approval of God? What will happen if we start practicing “Secret Religion?” Only the Holy Spirit can create this spirit in us. Are you saved?