We were in a Sermon on the Mount series called RED. You can watch the series intro below:
TITLE: "Why not What"
ONE THING: Motivation determines movement.
We've just finished Matthew 5 in our RED series. We are looking at Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. In chapter 5, Jesus spends the bulk of his time demonstrating how he had come to perfect the OT Law rather than abolish it. He did so by taking his audience back to the original intent of the Law, which was to form a certain kind of people rather than create a group of rule-followers. He was forming a people of reconciliation, of commitment and contentment, of covenant keeping, of honesty, truthfulness and integrity, of generosity, and of indiscriminate love!
In chapter 6 Jesus takes a turn in his teaching from character to what I'm going to call "Faith Practices." Faith Practices are spiritual rituals or disciplines intended to move us into a deeper relationship with God. Think of a marriage class or marriage seminar. Attending a marriage seminar doesn't make you a better couple than one who doesn't attend, but it is a practice intended to help your relationship grow. Or, why do you practice baseball everyday when you only play a couple of games a week? Baseball rules don't change from week to week. It's still about scoring the most runs. You practice daily because it helps you grow as a player! The same is true of Faith Practices. Engaging in such practices don't make you a better Christian; they help you grow in your relationship with God. The three faith practices Jesus addresses in chapter 6 are: giving, prayer, and fasting.
Turn to Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18:
1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you...
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
In the NT times God commanded Israel to give alms, to pray and to fast, and so it would seem that you either did them or you didn't! If you do these practices you get the smiley face and gold star. If you don't?...bad! If I tell my son to make his bed, he either makes it or he doesn't. So you either gave, prayed and fasted or you didn't...right? According to Jesus it wasn't quite that simple.
In his teaching, Jesus describes two types of people. Both of these groups of people do what was required. If you made them a chart saying Giving, Praying, Fasting and put it up in their room, both groups of people could put check marks or smiley face stickers by each of the Acts of Righteousness. So what's the difference between the two groups? What distinction is Jesus making between the two groups? One group he calls hypocrites even though they do what is required; they give, pray and fast (perhaps more than the other group). But they engage in these Faith Practices in order to impress those around them. They do it for their own glory. On the other hand, the second group gives, prays and fasts but do so secretly, in the closet, or when no eyes are watching because they give, pray and fast as a gift to God. SO... what's the difference between the two groups that do exactly the same thing? MOTIVATION! The 'Why."
Jesus is saying that motivation determines movement!